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Truce came the way of warring National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Daar Communications Group, operators of AIT TV and Raypower Radio Sunday as industry elders and patrons returned both parties to a round table.
Recall that NBC had last week, suspended the Broadcast License of Daar Communications Plc., over repeated breaches broadcasting codes and inability to pay licence renewal fees. But in response, the group secured an exparte order restraining the shutdown of operations which made the stations to go live since weekend.
Following the reopening of broadcast operations by AIT and Raypower, NBC Saturday, issued a statement informing Nigerians that whereas it takes note of the court order, it still sees the reopening of broadcast as continued breach.
However, the coming in of industry stakeholders led by the President of the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) and publisher of ThisDay Newspaper, Mr Nduka Obiagbena, truce has been reached with acceptable terms and conditions.
NPO comprises of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
At the meeting of all parties, the NBC DG, Mr Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, restated the agency’s 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.
However, in his response, 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.
The communiqué made available to Business Hilights on Monday noted that “After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties RESOLVED as follows:
“That 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;
“That 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;
“That following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc;
“That DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and; that all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.”
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