National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) led by MALL. BALARABE SHEHU ILELAH(DIRECTOR GENERAL) actions in the 2023 election Undermined Nigerian Democracy. “In all cases, NBC did not allow for due process as broadcasters were not given a chance to explain themselves.”.
In a recent report published by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of Nigeria has faced criticism for its decisions during the campaign period and after the election, which have hindered the freedom of the media. The report also highlights the urgent need for reform of the regulatory body.
The EU EOM report reveals several instances where NBC’s actions restricted media freedom. The report notes that in August 2022, just before the start of the campaign, the NBC attempted to revoke 53 broadcasting licenses on vague grounds. However, only a court injunction prevented this from happening.
During the campaign, the Broadcasting Commission imposed disproportionate penalties on two national TV stations for airing live broadcasts in which officials from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) used inflammatory language.
The EU EOM report criticizes the NBC for its biased approach and highlights the need for a fair and balanced regulatory environment.
Furthermore, after the elections held on February 25 and March 18, the NBC fined 25 and 15 radio and TV stations, respectively, for ill-interpreted breaches of campaign coverage rules. The report raises concerns about the lack of due process, as broadcasters were not allowed to explain themselves.
The report also sheds light on an incident in early April, where the NBC swiftly responded to a complaint from the APC and labelled a live interview with the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) as “volatile and capable of inciting public disorder.” The NBC imposed the maximum possible fine on the respective TV channel without allowing for proper justification from the broadcaster.
In all of these cases, NBC’s decisions were not made public and were often leaked on social media platforms before being officially delivered to the affected media outlets. This lack of transparency raises serious concerns about the regulatory body’s accountability and professionalism.
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Additionally, the EU EOM report highlights the National Broadcasting Commission’s failure to address objections raised by the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), a respected professional umbrella organization representing media outlets. The National Broadcasting Commission’s disregard for BON’s concerns further underscores the need for reform within the regulatory framework.
The EU EOM report concludes by emphasizing the importance of media freedom in a democratic society and calling for an overhaul of the NBC to ensure its independence, transparency, and adherence to international standards. It urges Nigerian authorities to take immediate action to address the concerns raised and implement necessary reforms that protect the freedom of the media.
The findings of this report serve as a reminder that an independent and fair regulatory environment is crucial for the development and sustenance of a vibrant democracy in Nigeria.
The EU EOM reported on page 30
“Several NBC decisions made during the campaign and after both election days hampered the freedom of the media, while also attesting to a much-needed reform of the regulator.
Just before the start of the campaign, in August 2022, only a court injunction stopped the NBC from revoking 53 broadcasting licenses on vague grounds; during the campaign, the NBC disproportionately penalised two national TV stations for live broadcasts during which APC and PDP officials used inflammatory language; after 25 February elections the regulator fined 25 and after 18 March elections 15 radio and TV stations for ill-interpreted breaches of campaign coverage rules.
In early April, the NBC swiftly responded to an APC complaint, qualified a live interview with the LP vice-presidential candidate as “volatile and capable of inciting public disorder”, and enforced the maximum possible fine on the respective TV channel.
“In all cases, NBC did not allow for due process as broadcasters were not given a chance to explain themselves. None of the decisions was published and, on several occasions, they were first leaked on social media and only then delivered to the media outlet. The NBC also did not react to objections made by the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, a respected professional umbrella organisation.” the EU EOM added.