Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO, says, it has resolved the face-off between the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, and DAAR Communications Plc., owners of Africa Independent Television, AIT and Ray Power FM.
NPO comprises 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.
In a statement issued by NPO’s President, Nduka Obaigbena and made available to Journalists, the body convened a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
At the meeting held on Sunday by 8.00pm were patrons of NPO, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua and Uncle Sam Amuka; Ishaq Modibbo -Kawu – Director General & CEO, NBC; High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, founder and Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communications Plc; Raymond Dokpesi, Jnr, Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications PLC; Mr. Tony Akiotu, GMD, DAAR Communications Plc; Mrs. Tosin Dokpesi, MD, AIT; Barrister Donatus Anopuo – Company Secretary DAAR Communications PLC, among others.
At the meeting, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC restated their 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.
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.
DAAR Communications Plc. defended its position, saying 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 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.
According to the statement, “After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties resolved that DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the NBC and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan and appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary, as well as take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.”
“Following this, the NPO resolved that the NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc and that DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the NBC and that all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest,” he said.