Critical Appraisal Of The Role Of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) In Controlling The Performance Of Broadcast Industry In Nigeria
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is responsible for the reshaping and regulating of broadcasting, in terms of ethics and professional standards. The performances of the radio and television stations in Nigeria was used to adjudge or evaluate the performance of the NBC since inception. In this research, the extent of how the NBC has been carrying out their monitoring role of the broadcast industry was x-rayed. The study – was a survey of three major areas of mass communication-the print media, the advertising agencies and the broadcast media. These, being in the same field or profession could appraise the NBC judging from the content and conduct of the stations.
1.1 Background of the Study
The human society we live in is that of law and ethics, control and regulations. In essence therefore, the legal maxim ‘ubi societas ibijus’ (where there is society, there is law) stresses this fact. Laws, standards, guidelines and rules promote ethics while ethical principles reinforce the pillar of the law (Okoro, 1998:174). Therefore, no organised society in the world can exist with it citizens carrying out their normal functions without rules and regulations. In the absence of law and order, there will be chaos and anarchy.
Communication, and particularly broadcasting, according to (Ibagere 1996: 93) is regarded as: An important aspect of national by which professional bodies established must regulate its standards of practice in order to sanitize its activities. This is usually by government or pressure groups. it must ensure that the broadcast industry operate within the confines of public morality which should be determined by self-imposed censorship effected by also a professional body.
Broadcasting, with its sensitive nature and a wider coverage area, is a very powerful organ of mass communication. It is also dependent on air waves-electromagnetic spectrum, which belongs to the public. Therefore, governments all over the world have shown diverse interests in broadcasting because of the existence of its vital ingredient- the airwaves (electro — magnetic spectrum) which is a natural resource. There is a universal acceptance that the airwaves formed within the air space above the territorial boundaries of any nation is a bonfires property of that country.
Therefore, often government and other designated agencies are charged with regulating the airwaves so as to ensure that they benefit the nation as a whole now and in the future.
Ume- Nwagbo. E. (1995 : 15) citing (Head 1976:5) affirms that: No country can afford to leave so powerful and persuasive an avenue of public communication completely unregulated without shaping it to some degree in accord with public policy and national interest.
Again, broadcasting which invites legal controls because of the need to prevent interference and also for the efficient use of the spectrum for the public interest and to manage its potential for social control, is regulated the world over usually by an agency of government. In this case, it is the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) (Ogor, 2002 :78).
Broadcasting, due to its delicate, spontaneous and ubiquitous nature, demonstrates awesome power in shaping society. It has been described in varied terms.
In economic terms, broadcasting serves as a compass that helps in indicating the fluctuations in stocks, shares and other indices. In social life, it is a veritable instrument for shaping social and family values across generations. In politics’, it remains a sine qua non In Conveying messages to and from voters and a vehicle of agenda legitimization, sometimes of outright campaign by nations.
Frequencies which all the broadcast stations use to convey messages are, therefore, closely and scrupulously monitored and regulated in the public interest. Bako, 2002: 2). Among the different media of mass communication, the broadcast media have always been a source of worry to governments. One major reason for government control of broadcasting is based on the fact that the air waves (electromagnetic spectrum) are a scarce public resource. It is argued that this resource should be controlled and allocated by the government in the way best suitable for serving the public good (Okunna, 1999: 77). Odunewu, (1996: 285), while discussing the need for the press to embrace self-regulation, cited from the works of legendary.
Mahatma Gandhi of India that “the Press is a great power but, just as an unchained torrent submerges the whole countryside and devastate crops, an uncontrolled broadcast serves but to destroy. It can be more profitable when control is exercised from within the profession”.
Furthermore, for the broadcast media to remain relevant in the lives of Nigerians, it needs to be regulated in one way or the other for the benefit of the generality of the public. Ugboajah (1987: 155) contends that public interest in broadcasting is not a myth and cited Dennis (1974) in support of position that “Government regulation of certain communication activities affected with public interest ‘is actually in public interest”.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The essence of establishing the NBC was to monitor and bring erring stations under control. However, it has been observed according to (Odiaka, 2001: 13; Saidu, 2002: 36; King, 2003: 19, and Ogor, 2003: 16) that many stations violate the Broadcast Code because there has not been any effective application of sanctions on stations contravening the provisions of the Code.
Therefore, as the main regulator of the broadcast industry, has the NBC been able to ensure that the broadcast stations adhere strictly to the NBC Code and is the Code, which is the only instrument, used in measuring performance of the various broadcast stations, an effective and efficient means of measuring performance?
The in-depth analysis of these questions as vel1 as the attempt to seek answers to them form the problem of this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study generally aims to find out how the NBC has been performing its statutory role since inception. Specifically, the study is meant to find out the following:
- The extent the NBC has been able to perform its monitoring role as a watchdog of the broadcast industry.
- The extent of compliance of the various broadcast stations with the NBC code of conduct.
- If government’s reasons for hesitating to deregulate the industry have been justified.
1.3. Research Questions
The following research questions have been formulated to guide this study:
To what extent has the NBC been able to perform its monitoring role as the ‘watch dog’ of the broadcast industry?
- How far have the stations complied with the NBC Code conduct?
- Considering government’s reasons for hesitating to deregulate the industry, have there been cases of erring stations?
- Who are the worst violators-the public or private stations?
- What various measures have been applied by the NBC to bring stations into compliance with the Broadcast Code?
- To what extent has the NBC applied its powers as specified in section 2 land (2) of the NBC Act No. 38 of 1992?
1.4. Definition of Terms
According to the Thesaurus Dictionary (1998: 128) Critical Appraisal means evaluation, judgment, estimate and assessment. For the purpose of this study, critical appraisal means thorough evaluation and examination to judge the performance or to find out desirable or undesirable development within the broadcast industry in Nigeria.
This means the National Broadcasting Commission. It is the official regulatory organ of the government established to monitor, supervise and regulate the broadcast industry in Nigeria.
The Thesaurus Dictionary (1998: 116) defines control as Command, management, mastery, regulation, direction, sway, rule, dominion, domination, jurisdiction, authority, supervision, and charge. However, in this study, controlling of the broadcast industry will only mean regulation, management, direction, supervision, authority, charge, setting of rules and standards to sanitize the industry.
This means discharge, accomplishment, execution, transaction, fulfillment, attainment, conduct, effect ration and achievement of the operators of the broadcast industry according to the standards and guidelines set by the NBC.
(5) Broadcast Industry:
This refers to the public and private radio and television stations, including cable television services, direct satellite broadcast and any other medium of broadcasting in Nigeria.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Since the emergence of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) about ten years ago, few studies have been documented empirically on the role of this organization as the nation’s broadcast media regulator. This study draws its uniqueness from the concerted effort to evaluate the role of the NBC in controlling the broadcast media in Nigeria. This is with a view to properly and empirically document the findings unlike other efforts which are mainly reported in conference papers, newspaper articles or in-house publications.
Furthermore, this study will help encourage further research in the area because there is still a lot of gap to be filled. This study is an added knowledge and insight to issues of broadcast regulations in Nigeria. It would therefore, also provide useful reference material for lecturers and students of mass communication, researchers as well as media practitioners, especially main-stream broadcasters.
Finally, the study will also be useful in providing a database for mass communication policy makers so that better policies formulated to enhance the performance of the NBC. It would also serve as a guide to all stakeholders in the industry.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
For a study of this nature, the researcher has been constrained in the following ways:
- The limited resources and time for this kind of study would not allow for gathering of adequate data from the entire newspaper houses, advertising agencies and radio/television houses in Nigeria. This has also constrained the researcher from using a combination of methods of data collection for the study.
- A major limitation encountered during the administration of the questionnaire was the gratification or reward expected by the respondents from the researcher so that the copies could be filled. It almost made the elicitation of the data impossible.
- It is expected that by the purposive sampling method employed for the study, the respondents actually know about the deregulation of the broadcast industry and the role of the NBC.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to ascertain the amount of bias introduced into the findings of the study because the respondents may not be truthful in answering the questionnaire.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to critically appraise the role of national broadcasting commission.
In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the role of NBC in monitoring and supervising the stations.
Another approach to broadcasting regulation surrounded by controversies is the umpire posture of the NBC. It has been observed that the commission has been working as if it does not want any other (private) station to compete with the public stations. Analysts say it is merely paying lip service to being committed to promoting the concept of media pluralism. As a controller and an arbitrator, most of the actions and, sometimes, inactions point towards confirming the notion above. MRA (2001; p.21) makes reference to NBC’s seeming silence to attempts by, NTA, a federal government owned TV station, to dominate its private competitors. In 2000, Channels Television obtained the right, from TV Africa, to broadcast Europe Nations Football Tournament, Euro 2000, which NTA was equally seeking. Amusingly, NBC showing bias said the signals should not be aired in Nigeria since TV Africa was not registered in Nigeria. That directive was suspect because there no legal provision for foreign stations to register with NBC for their programs to be aired in Nigeria. Furthermore, in September of the same year, NBC issued a press statement that the rights for airing the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games had beengiven to Union of Radio and Television Nations (URTNA) and their affiliates. In Nigeria, only NTA and FRCN are members of URTNA. That was a clear ploy to prevent private stations. And most recently, in 2009, FIFA, the world football governing body, gave the right to cover Nigeria 2009 Youth Championship to AIT. Based on that right, AIT acquired up-to-date equipment for the coverage only for NBC to rule that NTA has the right to cover the event. It took the intervention of FIFA Local Organizing Committee for AIT to cover the tournament. From the forgoing, the conduct and attitude of NBC undermines its role as an independent regulator that was established to intervene and arbitrate in conflicts in the broadcast industry.
Regulation is one of the instruments used by the society to check media content and portrayal. The political system of a country determines the direction its regulations follow. In Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, was established by Decree 38 of 1992, to register, regulate and control broadcasting in Nigeria. But it has been established that the commission serves as an agent of government thereby beclouding its agenda of pluralism in the broadcast sector. Nevertheless, its regulation approaches include, licensing, monitoring, sanctioning defaulters, intervening and arbitrating in conflicts and other control measures. The commission performs all these duties with overt showcase of bias against the private stations; thus making it an “irregular” regulator. It is believed that the inability of NBC to exercise its duties independently rests on the fact, that the power to issue licences is with the president, and not the commission. Also, the laws erroneously gave the commission two much powers – making it a regulator and an arbitrator – thus it commits some fundamental flaws that places the country far behind other nations in terms of positive regulation. As an aftermath of the licenses being issued by the country’s supreme political authority, the commission would always bend the rules to protect the stations established by government. This scenario fosters the principles of the authoritarian theory. In other to uphold democratic principles in a period Nigeria is being re-branded, it would be pertinent to adopt the principles of the libertarian theory by reviewing the Nigerian Broadcasting Code and its application, and create an equal competitive atmosphere for all and sundry.
Haven completed the study, the researcher therefore recommends that NBC should apply stringent measures against stations whose programs are devoid of integrity, authenticity, good taste and decency, no matter whose ox is gored. Generally, programs aired should depict the priceless norms and values of the nation. The NBC Code declares that the sponsorship or sale of news is detracting from its integrity and predisposes a bias in favor of the sponsor. News is universally accepted as being sacred and is not for sale. News should be made available by the stations to all and sundry and not serve only the plum tastes of the rich who can afford the price.Public and private stations compete for available advisements inorder to increase their revenue and for sustenance. However, NBC should intervene or resolve the issue of government subvention being only meant for the public stations.
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