Editor’s Note: Public Affairs commentator Richard Oduma Ph.D. writes about the bill establishing the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters aspires to take over the functions of the existing Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
In the court of public opinion, it is common knowledge that one cannot judge one’s own case can be. By being able to justify every wrong in every decision and becoming a demigod. Peer reviews and independent controls help curb people’s excesses, especially when their actions are likely to harm the public. The famous 19th-century English historian Lord Acton (1834–1902) is credited with saying that power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts. This is the basis for the introduction of checks and balances into all human systems.
First and foremost, setting up two bodies will seem like creating confusion, to monitor a sector. It has never been done and will certainly create a chaotic situation when the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters are all authorized to regulate the media sector. Worse, it will be disastrous for broadcasters and the media community to self-regulate. The result will be not just chaos, but utter confusion, avoidable industrial action, and a spate of lawsuits for interfering with the duties of multiple regulators.
Arguing that NBC is only for grant of licenses and guidelines for media houses, while the SNB should focus on the behavior of members and the quality of work, as said, the government should build schools, hire teachers and allow teachers to self-supervise. NBC is not only a licensing organization for broadcasters, but also a quality control mechanism for professional broadcasting and media practice in Nigeria. This applies to all media organizations.
It should be noted that NBC has the legal power to set up a Broadcast Institute, just as the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters bill requires. It is against the existing laws if the SNB proposal goes through. Broadcasters and media practitioners should rally around NBC to enable it to carry out the mandate it was founded to fulfill, including founding the Broadcasters Institute, rather than bring in parallel organizations whose missions are certainly at odds with the good work , which NBC has already done.
Advocating self-regulation and calling for a change in the ABC Act seems to have a sinister motive. Any attempt to take the government out of regulating the media will lead to abuses as it is difficult to judge in one’s own case. It is misleading to say that NBC has shown no hope for media regulation in Nigeria. Several media houses are known to have been sanctioned for violating the Nigerian Broadcasting Code. To expect NBC to become involved in internal disciplinary action against errant employees is asking too much. Staff mentoring and professional competence assessment should be conducted by the Nigerian Union of Journalists and Guild of Editors and not necessarily by any other body to avoid conflict.
While those who advocate media self-regulation draw parallels between doctors and engineers and lawyers, it must be noted that the rigorous training and practice of medicine and engineering differs from journalism. The media must be censored to avoid repeating what happened in Rwanda and to avoid instances where enemies of the state undermine national security with sensational reports and statements. Well-meaning Nigerians should therefore show patriotism by supporting NBC rather than sponsoring rogue laws that are more likely to harm the country.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Legit.ng.
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