Nigeria: Govt Unveils Measures to Strengthen NBC, Sanction Hate Broadcasts

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(file photo).
20 November 2019

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has announced plans that would ensure the amendment of the Act establishing the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in order to reposition the commission and realign it to the current realities in the broadcasting industry.

Mohammed made the announcement in Abuja recently when the received the report of the NBC's Reforms Implementation Committee (RIC) from its Chairman, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba.

"Some 27 years into the life of the NBC, there is the need to re-evaluate the applicability of some of its laws. Following the implementation framework presented to me, I will immediately commence the process of forwarding an executive bill for consideration of the Federal Executive Council and further legislative action.

"The bill will address the existing lacuna in the areas of the regulation of the internet, the ongoing Digital Switch Over, Digital Access Fee, and insulation of the regulator from partisan politics," he said.

The minister said in the meantime, the NBC has been directed to immediately come up with regulations for the broadcast of content on the internet and the web, noting, however, that the regulations must not in any way gag the press or hinder their universal role of providing valuable information to the citizenry.

He also said that in line with a presidential approval, the commission has been mandated to amend the Broadcasting Code to reflect the upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency while willful repeat of infractions on three occasions, after the initial levying of fine on a station would attract suspension of license.

The Minister also said the NBC should immediately upgrade the breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to "Class A" offence in the Broadcasting Code.

He said that in order for the NBC to effectively perform its regulatory role in the age of technology and the internet, the government would immediately commence the process for the acquisition of modern broadcast equipment for the commission for the purpose of monitoring and enforcement.

Mohammed said the NBC would come out with fresh regulations that will promote the local broadcast industry and protect the Nigerian broadcast industry from monopolistic tendencies.

"These regulations are also in the area of advertising tariffs and production of advertisements in Nigeria. The regulations will also ensure that all anti-competitive behaviors are deterred and sanctioned where they occur," he said.

The Minister said the President also placed a high premium on the welfare of staff of the NBC, which accounted for the directive for the commission to commence work on an enhanced welfare package for the staff with a view to implementing such as soon as possible.

The RIC, which was inaugurated by the minister on October 10, 2019, was given six weeks to submit its report.

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