The National President, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, has faulted the decision of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, in revoking licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness.
In a statement issued on Friday, Isiguzo says the decision by the industry regulator, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness to the Commission was ill advised.
He noted, “The affected stations, according to NBC are said to owe arrears of licence fees amounting to N2.6 billon since 2015.
“Although the Director General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah claimed that this development had no political motives, yet 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.
“While we regret the inability of these broadcast stations to fulfill their obligations to NBC, in-view of dwindling resources, we caution against such large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequence. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such media blackout at this time.
“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.”
Similarly, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has expressed concern over the shutting down of over 50 broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for failing to pay their renewal licence fees.
In a press statement signed by its President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, on Friday, the professional body of all the editors in Nigeria said that the action, if not reversed, will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in a country where jobs are scarce.
“The NGE is worried because media houses, which played and continue to pay a key role in the nurturing and development of democracy can’t just be off air no matter the reasons.
“While the Guild is not against broadcast stations fulfilling their financial obligations to the NBC, we note that the current harsh operating environment that has crippled every sector in our nation was not taken into account by the NBC before its action.
“Currently, it is difficult for private stations to import broadcast equipment due to the high exchange rate. We are all aware of the high operational cost, including the cost of diesel to power their generating sets,” the NGE stated.
The group added that several broadcast stations are just managing to survive in the midst of the high competition in the industry following the licencing of hundreds of more stations by the NBC.
The NGE called for a review of the NBC Act to increase the lifespan of a broadcast licence from five to at least 10 years.
The body of editors also advocated a reduction of the licence fees considering the fact that several broadcast stations now operates in the country, saying for instance, the Lagos zone alone now has close to 50 radio stations.
The NGE tasked the NBC to enter into dialogue with the affected stations to restructure the debts owed and work out convenient payment period to ensure their survival.
According to the statement, “A caring government should be concerned about the possibility of job losses than revenue generation. After all, one of the functions of the NBC is working for the survival and the development of the broadcast industry.”
“A critical stakeholder in the nation’s democratic space cannot be shut out at this critical moment of our democracy, especially when the country is preparing for the 2023 general election.”
The NGE, therefore urged the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria and the Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria to enter into a dialogue with the NBC with a view to find a lasting solution to this recurring issue of licence renewal fees, which often lead to threats of shutdown.