By Prince Osuagwu
European Union, EU support group, Institute for media and society alongside other stakeholders in the media yesterday lampooned alleged Presidency’s participation in the broadcasting licence process of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
The group sought the ammendedment of section 39 of the constitution of Nigeria, to effectively exclude the presidency from such activities in NBC’s activities.
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It also advocated a strong an independent National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, condemning what they described as political interference in the activities of the commission.
The group, during a public presentation of the review of the NBC Act, in Lagos, said the intervention was necessary to give the commission freedom to make decisions that would impact favourably on the media industry.
Executive Director of the institute, Dr Akin Akingbulu, in his introductory remarks before the unveiling of the review, said NBC should be free of political interference because absence of independence affects a regulator because a shackled regulator cannot stimulate the sector.
He added that: “The NBC should be vested with full regulatory powers, including the power to process applications, grant and review licenses, without reference to other government organs such as the ministry of information and the presidency”
He also added that after reviewing of the NBC Act, stakeholders in the media proposed that: ‘representatives of the ministry of information and the department of state services should be excluded from membership of the governing board of the commission and that the governing board and Director General should be appointed by the president upon consultation with groups that they represent and confirmation by the senate”
Earlier, the Chairman of NUJ, Lagos chapter, Dr Quasim Akinreti, had berated the transparency level of issuing licenses at the commission, the inability of the commission to make its annual report public and very little opportunity for appeal to the people denied licenses by the NBC.
He said the Council had concluded plans to engage the commission on those issues and the outcome of the discussion would determine whether the matter would be escalated.
Also, the Director of International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade said that so many issues in the country today, like the social media bill require strategic engagement by the media to ensure they did not end up becoming the arrow to break the power of the media to watch the society.
He said that if the social media bill succeeds in being passed, government would have succeeded in frustrating the active voice of the media. “Already, government owns almost 90 percent of the broadcast media, if it succeeds in getting the social media bill passed into law, it may shut down blogs and news sites and that would have given them power over the active voice of the media” he added.