Following the suspension of the Broadcast License of DAAR Communications Plc., owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the President of the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) comprising 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), convened a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
A statement by the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY/ARISE Group, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena stated that the meeting which held at 8pm on Sunday by elders and patrons of NPO, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua and Uncle Sam Amuka, had the following in attendance: Ishaq Modibbo -Kawu – Director General and CEO, NBC, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communications Plc., Raymond Dokpesi, jnr, Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications PLC and Mr. Tony Akiotu, GMD, DAAR Communications Plc.
Others are; Mrs. Tosin Dokpesi , MD, AIT, Barrister Donatus Anopuo – Company Secretary DAAR Communications PLC, Uncle Sam Amuka, Publisher, VANGUARD Group, Mallam Ismaila Isa, Patron NPAN and Nduka Obaigbena, President NPAN and President NPO.
The statement noted that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) restated its 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 were to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in the 1999 constitution and ensure the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
It stated that 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, citing lack of editorial balance by DAAR Communications as well as the lingering issue of non-payment of national network license fees by DAAR Communications.
The statement added that DAAR Communications Plc. defended its position by saying that it gave 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 that 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 statement added.
It however noted that after an exhaustive dialogue, all parties RESOLVED as follows:
- 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;
- 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;
- Following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc;
- DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and;
- All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.
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