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Nigerian media stakeholders have resolved the lingering feud between DAAR Communications Plc., owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM, and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Concerned about the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc. by the 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 last Sunday of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
According to a statement by Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY / ARISE Group who is also President of NPO, the meeting was attended by elders and patrons of NPO, including Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua and Uncle Sam Amuka. Also in attendance were Ishaq Modibbo-Kawu – Director General & CEO, NBC; the following people from DAAR Communications Plc: Raymond Dokpesi, Founder and Chairman Emeritus; Raymond Dokpesi, Jnr, Chairman of the Board; Tony Akiotu, GMD; Donatus Anopuo, Company Secretary; Tosin Dokpesi , MD, AIT, and Nduka Obaigbena, President and NPAN and NPO.
At the meeting, it was said that the 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 are 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 regulator 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 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 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.
After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties resolved that DAAR Communications Plc. would work out a new realistic payment plan with the NBC, and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan; that DAAR Communications Plc. would appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary; it would also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.
It was also resolved that NBC would immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc; and DAAR Communications Plc. would withdraw its case in court against the NBC. All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.