“21 years ago the broadcasting industry depended largely on foreign content, especially music. Today, through the National Broadcasting Commission’s regulatory activities, Nigerian content and music have taken a pre-eminent position across numerous channels and platforms, making Nigeria the media and entertainment hub of Africa.” This had been the recurrent mantra that ricocheted across the gathering of the broadcast stakeholders at the recently concluded first annual lecture in commemoration of the NBC’s 23rd anniversary in Abuja.
The theme of the anniversary lecture was: ‘New Media, Convergence and the Future of Broadcasting: Greedy Telcos, Naive Broadcasters and the Scramble for Spectrum Protocols’. The lecture was delivered by Secretary General-elect of Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Mr. Shola Taylor. Taylor, who will assume office as the Sectary-General of CTO on September 17, 2015, espoused the activities of the commission in liberalizing the country’s broadcasting spectrum thereby encouraging a healthy competition.
He however noted that there had been several disruptive developments in the technology space that have posed challenges to the industry and it is important to ensure that policy and regulatory regimes are able to respond in a timely fashion to new technology and market developments and to promote the flexibility of technology choice and service provision for the consumer.
“Thus the neutrality of policies and regulatory regimes towards the technology platform is a desirable attribute because any efforts to maintain barriers across such segments will definitely be overwhelmed by technology. In this vein, governments need to be aware of what is happening so that they can create the necessary policies which are to be carried out by the regulators.” Taylor said.
In his own address, the Director Generalof the commission, Emeka Mba, said that the economic situation of the country required that Nigerians should be patient with the commission. He added that the spectrum was valued at about N100 billion, adding that the commission was not necessarily going to sell all of them at this point but only a portion. “As broadcasting remains the only potent way of reaching out to people, digitisation is a credible way of dealing with the problems of employment and also ensuring that the country meets international standard. Most importantly, the Federal Government could create up to 18,000 jobs from digitisation.”
Leadership after leadership of the commission has seen to the deregulation of the country’s broadcasting which has consequently encouraged healthy competition and enhanced the general development and growth of the country’s broadcast industry. However, the present leadership of the commission through the able hands of Mr. Emeka Mba, has seen the commission snowballed into a formidable empire with different permutation capable of fulfilling its mandate which has since guaranteed the emergence of sustainable broadcast industry that satisfies the social, political and economic needs of the people. Mba is considered by many of his peers as a leading visionary in the converged fields of media, entertainment and technology, with over 23 years wealth of experiences and expertise in the converged fields of media & broadcasting, communications technology, and regulatory policy management.
These baggages of experiences and expertise had thrown the DG into a better light for undertaking groundbreaking strides he is making in the digitization process of the county’s broadcast industry. The D-G’s tenacity with which he has been handling the much taunted digitization process, right from the adoption into the today’s advanced stage of incubation has been applauded by various stakeholders. Mba has cleverly masterminded indigenity in the digitization process by giving license to private broadcast investors cum the indigenous ones so that all the stakeholders are not left out.
After splitting the broadcasting function between content provider and signal distributor, three signal distributors were licensed by the commission, one of which was our indigenous NTA as an independent entity. In addition, Mba insists that the Set-top-boxes to be used are to be manufactured in the country. The temerity with which he had approached the task and his refusal to ingratiate himself to the powerful elements in the country on the altar of delivering the needful services to his fatherland has received a far reaching acclaim.
Recently, owing to his historic role in settling the dispute between COSON and the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) over the payment of royalties to artistes, Mba was unanimously chosen by the COSON Board and decorated in Lagos with the Copyright Medal of Honour.
Notably, the Copyright Medal of Honour is the highest recognition that the music industry can give to any individual in acknowledgment of that person’s significant contribution to the promotion and defense of the rights of creative people in Nigeria. The jamming of Radio Biafra, which had been airing provocative anti-Nigeria programmes has of recent been one of the NBC’s boss selling point, for nobody had the gut to see to its end until when he, alongside security agencies, took up the gauntlet to fight it and its sponsors to the latter.
Apparently, the clampdown on the station and hounding of the sponsors of the pirate broadcast station was a strategic step in the right direction because these behind the hosting of the station do not have the best interest of the corporate existence of Nigeria at heart.
Another incident worthy of attention was the bringing to an abrupt end the age long pre-election bantering among politicians and political parties through the nation’s broadcast medium, especially in the run-up to the Election Day, which does not augur well for our democracy. In a bid to uphold the electoral process and broadcasting code, the commission monitored to ensure that no broadcaster allowed any political campaign on or forty eight hours before the Election Day.
Verily, so many broadcast stations were found wanting and the commission released into the open the list of these stations that contravened the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code starting from the beginning of the electioneering campaigns up till the election weekend and appropriate sanctions were meted on to them. The contraventions include breaches of the rules on the broadcast of sponsored electoral campaign materials, which must conform to the standards of truth, decency and good taste, and requiring the sponsor to be clearly identified.
Other breaches included the airing of campaign materials or programmes that promoted political parties or candidates within the 24-hour prohibition period, as well as unauthorised networking by a group of stations. Mba also issued as many licenses to community Radio stations so as to encourage and poster grass root development which ever since has been yielding positive result. These historic and heroic efforts of the commission in calling the shot of many political hirelings and electoral saboteurs were one of its kinds in the entire history of broadcast regulation phenomena in the country.
By so doing, the DG is placing the commission in a proper pedestal and by extension, acculturating the entire broadcast landscape into one of the veritable and potent tools of mass communication and mobilization, which, to a large, the entire citizenry would be better informed rather than ill informed.
Tahir Writes from Abuja