Following the suspension of the Broadcast License of DAAR Communications, owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM by the National Broadcasting Commission ( NBC ), the President of the Nigerian Press Organisation ( NPO ), comprising of the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria ( BON ), The Nigerian Guild of Editors ( NGE) and The Nigerian Union of Journalists ( NUJ), convened a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
NBC/AIT FACE-OFF RESOLVED
The meeting hosted at 8PM, on Sunday 9th of June, 2019, by elders and patrons of NPO, Mal. Ismaila Isa and Mr. Sam Amuka, had the following in attendance:
1. Ishaq Modibbo -Kawu – Director General & CEO, NBC;
2. High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communications Plc;
3. Raymond Dokpesi, Jnr, Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications Plc;
4. Mr Tony Akiotu, GMD, DAAR Communications Plc;
5. Mrs Tosin Dokpesi , MD, AIT;
6. Barrister Donatus Anopuo – Company Secretary DAAR Communications PLC;
7. Mr. Sam Amuka, Publisher, VANGUARD Group;
8. Mal. Ismaila Isa, Patron NPAN and
9. Nduka Obaigbena, President NPAN and President NPO.
At the meeting the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) restated their commitments to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under sections 22 and 39 to hold governments accountable, which states amongst others that the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media are to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in the 1999 constitution and ensure the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
The NBC also raised concerns about the non-adherence of the DAAR Communications group (AIT/Ray Power) to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, despite repeated interactions on same; the NBC then cited lack of editorial balance by DAAR Communications as well as the lingering issue of non-payment of national network license fees by DAAR Communications.
DAAR Communications Plc. defended its position saying it gives its team freedom to make editorial commentary on issues of the day relying on Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of Expression, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas without interference.
DAAR stated it had made some payments on account to the NBC but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payment plan they submitted to the NBC, and explained that the defaults were due to decisions jointly reached at BON meetings by all broadcasters to engage and renegotiate the cost of license fees with NBC, in view of the current difficult economic realities affecting the industry. But the NBC insists that license fees are statutory and thus non-negotiable.
After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties RESOLVED as follows:
1. DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan;
2. DAAR Communications Plc. will appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary; it will also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets;
3. Following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc;
4. DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and;
5. All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.