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Review NBC Code in conformity to democracy, Akinfeleye advises FG

By Unukaso Favour
12 November 2021   |   4:02 am
Renowned communication scholar, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, has called for urgent review of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Code, describing the current edition, issued last year by the regulator, as inconsistent with democracy.

Professor Ralph Afolabi Akinfeleye

Renowned communication scholar, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, has called for urgent review of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Code, describing the current edition, issued last year by the regulator, as inconsistent with democracy.

He spoke yesterday at the public presentation of “Question Marks on the Sixth NBC Code Amendments,” a publication by Consortium of Independent Broadcasters and Free Press Advocates.

At the event, which held at the Lagos office of the International Press Centre (IPC), Akinfeleye, a former Head of the Mass Communication Department of the University of Lagos, stated that the code “is an attempt by the government to over-regulate the broadcast space,” adding that many of the provisions in the Sixth NBC Code were unnecessary, as previous laws had addressed them.

“The first thing is that we have existing laws that address the concerns of the NBC. The NBC is trying to over-regulate the media in a way that is inconsistent with democracy, which is oiled by free press. A free press is required to make the government accountable at all times, not sometimes. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a revision of the NBC Code,” he said.

The publication, co-edited by IPC’s Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade and acting head of the Mass Communication Department of the Lagos State University, Dr. Akintunde Akanni, described the Code as a change from regulation to strangulation.

Arogundade noted that the Code contains provisions that could undermine democratic norms and standards, as well as jeopardise the values of broadcast sector liberalisation and free enterprise.

The IPC chief, who made reference to Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian that were jailed because of their story during the military regime of Muhammadu Buhari, observed: “All we do as media is because citizens have the right to know.”

Arogundade, who also took note of different sections of the Constitution, added: “There are many objectionable provisions in the revised Code that may discourage further investment in the Nigerian broadcast sector.

“Consider the fact that Section 2.127.2 of the Code seeks to confer arbitrary powers on the NBC to, among others, shut down a station for violating the provisions relating to web/online broadcasting without making any provision for stations that may be concerned to seek redress.”

He also identified Section 5.6.1 as dangerous. The section, he noted, prohibits the use of user-generated content (UGC) that may “embarrass individuals, organisations and the government.”

Arogundade warned that the section was capable of limiting citizen’s input into media content.

“By including the government among those that should not be embarrassed, the provision is capable of intimidating the media, while encouraging public officials to dodge the responsibility of accountability since they can always resort to the claim of being embarrassed.

“In other words, the provision is capable of undermining the obligation imposed on the media by Section 22 of the Constitution to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people, and therefore should be expunged,” he argued.

The ICPC boss similarly stated that Section 5.6.5, which requires a broadcaster to identify the source of UGC, would constitute an erosion of the privileges conferred on the media to protect sources that wish to be anonymous, branding it a violation of Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act.

The media rights activist equally pointed out the provision of the Code that seeks to compel broadcast rights holders to sub-license their content to competitors, saying it has the potential of discouraging investment in the sector.