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NBC suspends AIT, Raypower FM ‘until further notice’, alleges violations of Broadcast Code

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THE licence allowing Daar Communications, pioneer of the African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM, to operate has been suspended indefinitely by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Modibbo Kawu, the commission’s Director-General, made this announcement on Thursday and said the “shut down order is until further notice”.

“Today the 6th of June, 2019, AIT/Rapower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and, the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria,” Kawu alleged.

“Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning, the NBC, today 6th June, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the Commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11.”

Provisions of the NBC Act were cited to justify the suspension, as they empower the commission to revoke licences where the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest, where it operates not in accordance with the broadcasting code or public interest, and so on.

Kawu said the NBC, acting on monitoring reports and complaints from the public, has over the past two years invited the media company’s management to several meetings regarding its operations,
“particularly, Political Platform and Kakaaki aired on AIT”.

It was alleged in one of such meetings held in June 2017, he added, that in those programmes hate speech, divisive and inciting comments were used in discussing national issues, in violation of the NBC Act.

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“Again, on 15th August, 2017, it became imperative to invite the company for yet another meeting on almost same issues,” he continued.

“Furthermore, while addressing another meeting on 7th February, 2018, we highlighted issues of concern to the Commission which indicated that the company had been breaching the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the Broadcast Code.  The company’s delegates in their response promised to abate the breaches and comply with the law.

“However, on October 18, 2018, the Commission was disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/Raypower, and was constrained to issue a generic letter to all broadcast stations on the need to exercise caution in the use of user generated content from the social media knowing how volatile and misleading the social media has become. The management of Daar Communications Plc thereafter took to the social media to display our official correspondences.

“Recently, the Commission’s monitoring reports on AIT/Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of ‘Kakaaki’, tagged, ‘Kakaaki Social’, where inciting comments like, ‘Nigeria  is cursed, we declare independent state of Niger Delta’, ‘Nigeria irritates me’, ‘this country is gradually Islamising’ and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the Broadcast Code.  We were therefore constrained to issue Daar Communications letters of warning dated May 27th, 2019.

“We also observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, 22nd and 23rd May, 2019, without regard to the provisions of the Broadcast Code. The Commission, in line with its regulatory powers again cautioned AIT in another letter also dated 27th May, 2019.”

Instead of making amends however, the NBC boss added, Daar Communications “resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator.  Even the letters from the NBC were posted on social media platforms.”

The government agency further accused Daar Communications of being unprofessional, not paying its licence fees at the proper time, broadcasting partisan programmes, “heating the polity”, and using its channel to fight “personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law”.

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According to the Broadcast Code, an organisation whose licence is revoked may not re-apply for a new one, a suspension or revocation order is effective immediately, and the police may prosecute anyone “engaged in any form of broadcasting or in possession of any broadcast equipment or apparatus in the country without a licence or permit for the purpose”.

The NBC had earlier threatened to take disciplinary actions against Daar Communications due to its use of inciting and unfair social media comments in Kakaaki, and lack of professionalism.

Reacting during a press conference on Thursday morning, Raymond Dokpesi, founder of the media and entertainment company, described the agency’s actions as a form of persecution and urged the government to remove the NBC’s Director-General from office.

“Every broadcast which appears to them to offer a dissenting perspective to the position of government is reprehended as a threat to national interest,” Dokpesi said.

“Every reference and reportage from various sections of the country concerning injustice, inequality and iniquity is reprehended as a threat to national security.

“If we are critical of this government’s commitment to the tenets of democracy, it is because we have witnessed unabated interferences, harassment and intimidation by the agencies under the executive arm of government on the institutions of democracy and their principal officers.”

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'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via aadebajo@icirnigeria.org or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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