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Stakeholders at a public hearing on a Bill for an Act to amend National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act, on Thursday, faulted the proposed law, saying such legislation might cripple the commission.
The bill was sponsored by Rep James Faleke (APC-Lagos) and cosponsored by Rep Olusegun Odebunmi (APC-Oyo), who is also the Chairman, Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill, which was designed to make NBC more effective to regulate television and cable services to run education programmes in line with school syllabi and curricula, among others, recently scaled through the second reading at the lower chamber.
However, stakeholders at the public hearing said the bill might end up doing more harm than good to the commission.
Counsel to Pinnacle Communication Limited, Mr. Ebere Okonkwo, said that Subsections 7, 8 and 9 of the proposed Section 9(a) of the amendment bill needed to be looked into.
According to him, Subsection 7 says any broadcast station transmitting in Nigeria pursuant to the grant of the license by the commission or deemed granted a license under this bill shall not be refused renewal or prohibited from broadcasting including self-provision of broadcasting signal distribution from its existing broadcasting service unless such license has been used in a manner that is manifestly detrimental to the national interest.
“Mr Chairman, the meaning of this provision is that all broadcasters may now self-carry signals contrary to the industry’s policy as enunciated in the government white paper which has been referred to previously.
“The single frequency network method which was adopted under that white paper has also now been jettisoned by this amendment,” he argued.
Okonkwo stressed that: “Any legislation that makes the NBC alter its licensing condition as it relates with carriage of content which is technology-dependent will totally cripple the commission.
“And that is not the intent that I read from the long title of this amendment and the objectives stated.”
Okonkwo, who noted that the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) should have been represented at the meeting, said: “the spectrum in the country is regulated by (NFMC).”
Corroborating Okonkwo’s remark, Company Secretary of Inview Nigeria, Mr. Charles Ebuebu, said his submission aligned with Pinnacle Communication Limited stand.
He recalled that there was an existing bill which had gone through the second reading at the National Assembly.
“It is actually called the National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill, 2014.
“A bill for an act to amend the NBC Act to provide for competition in Nigeria, to promote efficiency and expand opportunities for Nigerians participation in world market while at the same time recognises the role of foreign competition in Nigeria and other matters related there,” he said.
He said he brought the information to the committee because there is the risk of taking decision at crossroad with the bill if the reference is not made to the bill that predates the current amendment bill.
According to him, the bill elaborately addresses the issue of competition, exclusivity, foreign ownership, etc.
According to him, the white paper makes clear reference to the fact that you cannot be a content provider and at the same time the signal distributor.
Ebuebu, who urged the committee to include submissions from the well-informed point of view before a conclusion is arrived at, said all issues should be taken together when considering the report.
The Director General of the NBC, Is’haq Kawu, said although the commission had gone through the content of the bill, the NBC had submitted a memorandum on the bill highlighting some salient issues.
Kawu, who enumerated areas amendment should be made towards ensuring a better bill, commended the lawmakers for their effort at ensuring that the NBC was strengthened and made effective.
Earlier, Faleke said he co-sponsored the bill because of the concern over the dominance of DSTV in terms of various programmes that have negative effects on our children, especially when parents are not there to guide them.
He said the bill was to ensure that all television and radio stations have educational programmes in their daily activities to help raise the standard of education in Nigeria.
According to him, the meeting is structured to collectively analyse the provisions of the bill towards addressing the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
Declaring the meeting open, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, said the importance of broadcast media cannot be overemphasised in ensuring peace and development of the nation.
Represented by the Deputy Minority Leader, Rep Chukwuka Onyema, Dogara urged the participants to take the meeting seriously and provide the committee with necessary facts to enrich the proposed bill.