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Media houses should obey rules during political campaigns, says NBC DG

By Sunday Aikulola
20 December 2022   |   4:08 am
Ahead of 2023 general elections, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Balarabe Ilelah, has cautioned media houses against disseminating inciting or misleading information.

Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

Ahead of 2023 general elections, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Balarabe Ilelah, has cautioned media houses against disseminating inciting or misleading information.

Speaking at a seminar for NBC leaders organised by the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in Lagos, recently, he advised, “as we explore the utility of media, which serves as a veritable tool through which the public is sensitised, it is expedient to remind the fourth estate of the realm to ensure that it is not used for negative broadcasts that could mislead or lead to public disorder.”

With the theme, ‘Contemporary Issues in Broadcast Media Regulation’, he warned that any dangerous, hate or fake and unwholesome content, whether online or on traditional media, would not be condoned.

He observed, “we have seen how hate speech and fake news made way into our media content. Many traditional media were used by obnoxious elements to sow seeds of discord in our polity and only the grace of God sustained Nigeria.”

To this end, he said broadcasters and the general public must abide by the Nigerian Constitution, NBC Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Electoral Act 2022 and other extant laws relating to the coverage of elections.

In his address, Director IMS, Dr. Akin Akingbulu, advised, “our colleagues in the media should ensure professionalism all the way. Media owners, government and security agencies should provide an enabling environment for journalists to carry out professional coverage. Institutions, which could pose challenges to fair, independent and professional regulation, especially in the broadcasting sector, should steer clear of the work of the regulator, that is NBC.”

Advising the regulator, he stressed the need for level playing field, definition and protection of media freedom and expression, definition and application of rules in line with international standards and good practices, general demonstration of independence and decisiveness in performance.

Akigbulu disclosed that the event is a continuation of second phase of a programme they started about five years ago.

He added that the programme is called the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN Project), which is aimed at the reinforcement of democracy in Nigeria.

According to him, “it also works through many pillars through which it helps strengthen the work of institution such as, election management bodies, the legislature, political parties, the media and civil society.”

In his presentation, Professor of Applied Communication, University of Ibadan, Ayobami Ojebode, who spoke on ‘Regulating for pluralism’, said media pluralism is diversity in all aspects of its operation, ownership, management, location, access, crew composition, programmes and programme content.

Ojebode identified media pluralism as a condition for other types of pluralism — political, cultural and religious.

He argued that a regulatory authority is an important element of broadcasting and has a role to play in protecting media freedom. He, however, said such protection requires a commitment to impartiality, independence and transparency

Ojebode further stressed the need for a good communication policy, which forestalls misinformation, especially in electoral periods, makes communication activities more coordinated, efficient and effective and produces effective stakeholders engagement.

He added that a seasonal communication policy is about who “we are in terms of vision, mission, goals, stakeholders; who we want to be in terms of communication for the given occasion; what we have in order to get there: resources — human, equipment and how we plan to use what we have to become who we want in the given occasion.”

Also speaking, Prof. of Communication and Change, University of Jos, Victor Ayedun-Aluma, said, “regulation occurs in the context of a system.”

He identified contemporary issues in broadcast media regulations as, stakeholder management, technology and Infrastructure framework, legal framework, audience/publics’ participation in/engagement with regulation, political-economic framework and socio-cultural framework issues.

He said, because the law is the primary source of broadcast media regulation, he said the law — not any person — is the regulator of broadcasting, noting, “persons are only agents of the law.”

To him, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the root cause of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission Act, which is the source of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.

Thus, he said any action of the NBC, such as a stipulation of the NBC Code, might become void — not legally binding on actors in the broadcast media regulatory system — if the justice system finds that it contradicts the Law.

The Law, he further explains, embodies the goals of regulation – that is the objective conditions that regulation intends to actualize.

He added that the law also embodies the terms of engagement between the regulator and the “regulatee”. That is: What is the regulator permitted to do to or with the “regulatee” and how is the regulator permitted to do it or to do them?; What is the “regulatee” permitted to do to or with the regulator and how is the “regulatee” permitted to do it, or to do them?

He observed that Proactive regulatory action, that is regulator’s actions anticipate regulatee’s actions; and Reactive regulatory action, that is regulator’s actions react to or respond to regulatee’s action.

He also spoke on regulatory and technology. He defined technology as a tool or technique by means of which a person intervenes in a state of affairs.

He added that a tool is different from a technique. He explained, “one is an object, the other is a procedure.

According to him, “a tool is similar to a technique. How? Both of them are means or instruments for achieving a goal. Note that a tool and a technique co-occur, that is, they are used in tandem. The implications of the meaning of technology stated above are: The goal to be achieved is very important because it suggests the means or instrument that is appropriate for the work or intervention at hand.

He said the state or condition of the regulatory technology users, that is the regulator and the regulated, is very important because it suggests the regulatory technology suitable to the user of technology, and thereby guides the choices of technology that are adopted and used by the regulator; and the criteria for self-Monitoring and Evaluation of technology use by the regulator.

Conclusively, he said the state or condition of the regulatory technology user, so-called end user recognises the fact that people or institutions have a history, that is, a background or experience of theories and practices as well as the validating or invalidating associations of those theories and practices.