Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftain and former Delta state gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, has called for the review of the codes of Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in order to avoid its present bias against private media houses; thus making it an “irregular” regulator.
Onuesoke, who was reacting to questions from journalists at Asaba, Delta state on the over bearing of NBC on private stations, recalled that NBC was established by Decree 38 of 1992, to register, regulate and control broadcasting in Nigeria.
He stressed that it is unfortunate that it has been established that the commission had derailed from its original functions by serving as an agent of government thereby beclouding its agenda of pluralism in the broadcast sector.
He explained that in order to uphold democratic principles in Nigeria, it would be pertinent to adopt the principles of the libertarian theory by reviewing the Nigerian Broadcasting Code and its application, and create an equal competitive atmosphere for all and sundry.
He added that this will be in line with the international standard that preaches against indecent content for equal opportunities and the fairness doctrine.
He pointed out that the inability of NBC to exercise its duties independently rests on the fact that the power to issue licences is with the President, and not the commission, stressing that the laws erroneously gave the commission too much powers making it a regulator and an arbitrator which had made it to commit some fundamental flaws that place the country far behind other nations in terms of positive regulation.
“Does the constitution grant the power to the NBC to accuse, try and sanction the media without recourse to the law courts? Where is the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing? Who determines whether an item is offensive or it is within the ambit of free speech and the right to know?
“Surely, the NBC’s action is highhanded and must be reversed. In a more litigious society, the law courts would have been brimming with cases against the NBC,” he stated..
The PDP chieftain argued that rather than stoke the fire of suspicion between government and the media, NBC must be cautious in carrying out its regulatory functions, adding that the responsibility of NBC is, first of all, to the people and not necessarily to any reigning government or its officials.
Onuesoke, who stated that NBC must not give any impression of being used for partisan ends, stated that for some time now, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed whose ministry supervises the NBC has not hidden his desire to regulate social media through one form of legislation or the other under the guise of fighting fake news and hate speech.
“In this age of digital media, it is a wild goose chase. Rather, he should work with his principals to deliver good governance and proper orientation of the youths through examples and not precepts.
“That will obviate the need for any draconian regulation. In any case, there are laws in the statute books already to deal with any real infraction. The Libel/Slander law, Cyber Act 2015 are part of them,” he disclosed.