Professor Tony Iredia, former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority, has said Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, must leave the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to do its job.
He said this on Wednesday while speaking on Sunrise Daily, a flagship programme on Channels Television.
Iredia, who was also former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), emphasized that Lai Mohammed is not a regulator and should allow the NBC do its job while he plays a supervisory role. He pointed that the minister taking over the role of the broadcast regulator creates suspicion because he belongs to a political divide.
“Everybody expects a broadcasting commission to be an autonomous body that has no place in politics. If you listened to the news that has been putting on since, who is speaking? The Minister of Information. Is he the Director General of the NBC?
“When a minister is speaking, there is no way broadcasters can see that the regulator is speaking. He is not a regulator, he should leave the broadcasters in the NBC to do their professional duty and then the law gives him right to supervise them but not to take over the job.
“The moment the minister is speaking, no matter how well informed he may be, the people become suspicious because he belongs to a political divide and whatever he is saying is likely to be used against the opposition and I think this is not a natural thing.,” he said.
Iredia also said the NBC Code announced by the minister on Tuesday did not pass through stakeholders before its adoption. He described the new code as full of sanctions and not to create excellence in the industry as it should be.
He added: “Now the problem really is that for the first time in the history of broadcasting in this country, the code was not done the way it used to be done.
“This time around, NBC just rolled out a number of things that it felt should be in the code and did not hold consultation with the stakeholders as the previous managers of the system did, where you first of all hold consultations and everybody would look at it, there will be a dummy, you bring it out at the tail end, there will still be another kind of review and all of that. Just as I said in the beginning, the code was supposed to be a professional guide.
“It was supposed to be a masterpiece that creates professional excellence in broadcasting but now it is filled with sanctions and what you would do and what you would not do and the bodies that should have been consulted were not consulted in the same way. Rather they were being told that it is subject to review and that all their objections now will be taken into consideration in the next review. In which case this particular edition was not exactly a broadcasting code for broadcasters made by broadcasters for professionals so that has been the problem and I am not surprised by the kind of headlines that are on today.”
Industry stakeholders have branded the code as agenda-driven, noting that they were excluded from making input before the code was finalised and described its unveiling as an ambush.
The NBC, in the new regulation, states that every broadcaster must license its broadcast and/or signal rights in any genre of programming to another broadcaster in Nigeria if “the genre of programme(s) enjoy(s) compelling viewership by Nigerians; it relates to a product or service that is objectively necessary to be able to compete effectively on a downstream market; or if it is likely to lead to the elimination of effective competition on the downstream markets”.
The new subsidiary legislation adds that refusal to comply will lead to consumer deprivation and stipulates the imposition of a N10 million for operators who fail to comply.