Stakeholders fault NBC’s intervention on advertising debts, blame minister for usurping role

Stakeholders in the Nigerian broadcast and advertising industry have faulted federal government’s intervention on advertising debts with the recently amended National Broadcast Code.

Among other objectives, the aims of the amendments to the NBC Code was to create restrictions for monopolistic behaviour in the broadcast industry, provide for local content and increase advertising revenue for broadcast stations and content producers. The amendment also stipulates codes of practice relating to content acquisition, sharing of content rights for rebroadcasting and technical standards for media services, including the regulation standards of fair market.

Recall that the minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the unveiling of the amended Code, made several remarks that did not go down well with industry stakeholders. The event was jointly hosted by the duo of the minister and the DG of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba. The minister’s intervention has, however, drawn flaks from industry watchers and players who believe the minister overstepped his boundaries in explaining and defending the amended broadcasting code at the event.

Responding to the minister’s intervention, former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Tonnie Iredia, faulted his involvement in the whole exercise. Iredia, who is a professor of broadcast management and media law, said the minister has hijacked the duties of the Director-General of the NBC.

In his words: “Everybody expects a broadcasting commission to be an autonomous body that has no place in politics. If you listen to the news, who has been speaking? The minister of information – is he the Director-General of the NBC? When the minister is speaking, there is no way the broadcasters can see that the regulator is speaking. He is not a regulator.

“He (the minister) should leave the broadcasters in the NBC to do their professional duty. The law gives him the right to supervise but not to take over the job.”

Other Nigerians have also faulted the intervention of the minister, criticising several sections of the amended code. Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka described the reviewed code as an economic sabotage targeted at press freedom.

Of all the areas treated in the amended code, the section on unpaid advertising rate has been described as one of the best. However, it has been recommended for redrafting as a result of some loose ends. The section prohibits having a backlog of advertising debts in order to ensure the sustainability of broadcast owners’ businesses and content producers. Besides, many observers have also argued that the area should be an industry self-regulated purview and not directly regulated by the NBC.

Reacting to issues that concern advertising in the new code, the President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Steve Babeko, said that the basis of the code was wrong as far as it has to do with advertising.

“For five years, we have been clamouring for the reconstitution of the APCON Council, now this is one of the flipsides of the absence of the Council. With the new development, government appears to be telling us to, henceforth, be reporting to NBC. The question is: if we have all those things in APCON Act, why pushing us to NBC? If APCON is in place, advertising will not be at the mercy of any other agency of government but the Council,” Babaeko said.

On whether the NBC’s intervention was a vote of no confidence on the present APCON leadership, the president, Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Femi Adelusi, believes that the NBC’s gesture, though commendable, was not a substitute for the role of APCON as a regulator in the industry. “The issue on payment should be managed by the regulator of the advertising practice, which is APCON. The role of APCON is to admit agencies and regulate the practice. NBC shouldn’t burden itself with technical complexities of agency/station contract relationships and debt resolution.

“There is an area where the industry needs NBC’s support and that is not debt management.”

An advertising industry aficionado, Mr. John Ajayi believes the advertising industry needs a holistic reform which can only be effectively carried out by APCON. “What NBC has done is just trying to scratch the surface. A lot needs to be done and it can only be done through the instrumentality of APCON. Government should do the needful by reconstituting the APCON Council”

It would be recalled that the sixth Broadcasting Code was released by the NBC in July, 2019. The recent amendment to the code has generated a lot of controversy. Observers believe that a holistic review of the code and collaboration with stakeholders will go a long way in resolving grey areas in the code.

The NBC is the statutory body responsible for regulating and controlling activities in the broadcast industry. The NBC Act also gives the commission the powers of “establishing and disseminating a national broadcasting code and setting standards with regard to the contents and quality of materials for broadcast”. Other statutory functions of the commission include promoting authenticated radio and television audience measurements and penetration.

The Ministry of Information is the supervising ministry under which the NBC operates. The National Broadcasting Commission, as an autonomous body, deals with issues around professional conduct in the Broadcast industry. However, the autonomy of the NBC especially as regards issues relating to professional practice in the broadcast industry was called to question when the minister dabbled into an area whose purview falls under the NBC.


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