Government increases hate speech fine to N5m, inaugurates NBC reform panel
The Federal Government has approved the review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant related laws to increase fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speech, inciting comments and indecency.
In the new dispensation, a willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after an initial levy would attract suspension of broadcast license.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who made the disclosure while inaugurating a seven-member National Broadcasting Commission Reform Implementation Committee yesterday in Abuja, stated that President Muhammadu Buhari had equally sanctioned an upgrade of breach of divisive political remarks to ‘’Class A’’ offence in the Broadcasting Code.
He said that the Nigerian leader equally okayed the independence of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to insulate it from political interference in the discharge of its duties, particularly in the areas of the issuance and withdrawal of licences and recruitment of monitors.
According to the minister, other approvals made by the president included the amendment of the NBC Act to enable the commission license web and online television and radio stations.
Mohammed said the efforts also involve monitoring of messages and signals from foreign media beam as well as engagement of more monitoring staff for the organisation.
Currently, there are just 200 staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations and the deployment of equipment and technologies for NBC as well as enhancement of welfare packages for employees to avoid their being compromised in the line of duty.
The minister noted that the decisions followed the deliberations at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of March 27, 2019, on the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
The terms of reference for the panel headed by NBC’s Director of Broadcast Monitoring, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, are to “immediately commence work on all statutory, legal and regulatory frameworks for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly; to immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator; and to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the commission to enable it function optimally.”
The committee, which has six weeks to submit its report, is peopled by Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa; Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. J.K. Ehicheoya; and Secretary-General, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Hajia Binta Adamu Bello.
Other members are the Director of Administration, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Mr. Ibrahim Jimoh; and NBC Board Member, Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi.