…proposing N5m as fine for delay, neglect, non-renewal of broadcast licence scales second reading at Reps
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
A bill proposing the sum of N5 million as a fine for failing to renew the operational license of any broadcasting station operator has scaled through second reading at the House of Representatives.
Specifically, the bill sponsored by Hon. Odebunmi Olusegun and two others seek to amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act, 2004 to strengthen the Commission and make it more effective to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria, provide for payment of all monies received by the Commission into the Federation Account in accordance with Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and encourage liberal openness and favourable competition in the industry.
Leading the debate on the general principle of the bill at plenary on Thursday, Odebunmi said if passed into law, the bill would inject efficiency into the broadcasting industry.
The bill however probihits giving operational license to religious organizations and political parties.
Clause 12C of the bill provides that: “Except for the purposes of direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service, the Commission shall not grant a broadcast license to a religious organization or a political party.”
Also read: Reps reject bill seeking to limit certain cases at appeal courts, reduce workload on Supreme Court
Clause 13B states that: “Where a licensee fails, neglects or refuses to renew the license within a period stated under section 13A above, the License stands revoked and shall be returned to the nearest office of the Commission.
“Where a license has expired or has been revoked, it shall be the duty of the person to whom the license was issued and of every other person in whose possession or under whose control the license may be, to cause the license to be surrendered to the Commission; any person who without reasonable excuse fails or refuses to comply with these provisions and shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a fine of five million nairas.”
Similarly, Clause 19A provides that: “The Commission shall monitor and enforce compliance with the provisions of this Act to identify instances where the commission considers any practice or arrangement by the licensee to substantially lessen or impair fair and effective competition as it relates to the Nigeria Broadcasting industry.”
Clause 19B of the bill also provides that: “Cross-media control of private broadcasting services shall be subject to such limitations as may be determined by the Commission to ensure fair and effective competition in the broadcasting industry.
“Any person who controls a newspaper including internet or online publication, may not acquire or retain financial control in more than one of radio or television broadcasting service at anyone/time.
“For the purpose of exercising the powers in pursuant to subsection (1) of this Section, the Commission shall as soon as may be reasonably practicable after the commencement of this Act, conduct an inquiry in accordance with the provisions of sections 19E of this Act and shall in doing so have regard, inter alia, to (a) The various categories of newspapers, according to the frequency of publication, the geographical extent of circulation and circulation figures as well as any matter relevant to the existing and future control of any such newspaper; and (b) The maximum percentage of financial or voting interest which may be held by any one or more private broadcasting licensee who controls one or more newspapers or group of newspapers.
“(2) The Digital Access Fund shall be administered as stated below; (a) 40% of the Fund to be shared by the signal distributors on an equal basis to be utilized for the development of digital broadcasting; (b) 10% of the fund to be apportioned to the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria for the improvement and upgrade of studio and broadcasting equipment; (c) 10% of the fund to be apportioned to the Nigerian Television Authority for the improvement and upgrade of the studio of broadcasting equipment; (d) 40% to the National Broadcasting Commission for improvement of Digital Broadcasting Activities, administration and content development.”
The bill which received the support of the majority of the House through voice vote was eventually referred to the Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values for further legislative duties.