NBC under fire for revoking licenses of AIT, Silverbird, others
The National Broadcasting Corporation has come under severe criticisms for revoking the operational licenses of some broadcast stations in apparent disregard of existing protocols.
Earlier on Friday, the NBC sanctioned the stations, citing their inability to renew their licences.
The broadcast regulator gave the affected media outlets “24 hours to shut down their operations” and also directed its offices across the country to “collaborate with security agencies to ensure immediate compliance”, NBC said, in a statement issued by its Director-General Balarabe Shehu Ilelah.
Amongst the high-profile stations affected are the African Independent Television (AIT) and the Silverbird Networks.
Ilelah further clarified that a second tranche of defaulters will soon be released.
Reacting to the situation, the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) both condemned the action of the regulatory body.
The NUJ in a statement by its National President, Chris Isiguzo said, “The decision today by the industry regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission – NBC, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness to the Commission was ill-advised.
“The affected stations, according to NBC are said to owe arrears of licence fees amounting to N2.6 billion since 2015.
“Although the Director General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah claimed that this development had no political motives, we insist that the action was ill-timed and reckless.
“It should be noted that this wholesale revocation of licences at this critical time of insecurity in the country appears to be a decision taken without careful prior deliberation, consultation, or counsel.”
The NUJ believes in the face of economic hardship, the”large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequence. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such a media blackout at this time.”
Read also:NBC fines Trust TV N5m for alleged ‘glorification’ of terrorism
“We call on NBC to exercise more restraint on this issue in consideration of national security and allow for more dialogue and consultation to find a better way of dealing with the situation,” the union added.
On its part, the MRA also in a statement on Friday by Ms Obioma Okonkwo, Head of its Legal Department, said by the revocation of the broadcast licenses of so many stations for alleged non-payment of their licence fees, the NBC was prioritizing its desire to make money off the broadcasters over the interest of citizens as the ultimate effect of its action is to deprive millions of Nigerians access to information as well as their rights and ability to freely express themselves through these stations.
Ms Okonkwo further said: “We are shocked by this naked display by the NBC of a lack of appreciation of its principal role which is to contribute to the emergence of a knowledge society”.
She argued that “the action of the NBC has only worsened the prevailing lopsidedness in the broadcasting landscape in Nigeria which was already dominated by government-owned broadcasting stations but is now under the monopolistic control of Federal Government-owned stations, which will be almost unchallenged, with the result that citizens will now be fed unmitigated propaganda by these remaining stations.”
Ms Obioma accused the NBC of being insensitive to the harsh economic environment under which the broadcast stations have operated over the last two and a half years as the national economy has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic itself and the measures taken by the government in response to the pandemic.
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