Joint World Radio Day Statement
The Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC)
Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and
The International Press Centre (IPC)
For immediate release: February 13, 2013
The Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC), the Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC), join the rest of the global community in celebrating the second anniversary of World Radio Day, today February 13, 2013.
The day came into being on November 3, 2011, when the 36th General Conference of UNESCO approved the proclamation that February 13 of every year should be observed as World Radio Day, following a proposal at the session 187 of UNESCO’s Executive Board in September 2011.
We continue to identify with the aspirations which motivated the proclamation of February 13 as World Radio Day, to raise awareness about the importance of radio, facilitate access to information through radio and enhance networking among broadcasters.
Observations and Recommendations
On the occasion of this second anniversary of the World Radio Day, the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition and its partners, IMS, MRA and IPC wishes to remind the Federal Government of Nigeria, various State governments, the National Assembly and the State Houses Assembly about their obligations to facilitate an enabling environment for unfettered radio broadcasting in Nigeria. This is necessary for our full democratic development and to enhance the people’s participation in governance.
In particular, we wish to draw government’s attention to and highlight the following issues:
- The continued delay in the operationalization of Community Radio
- The absence of constitutional backing for independent broadcasting in Nigeria.
- The lack of public involvement in the processes leading to the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting
Delay in the Operationalization of Community Radio
It is now almost three years since October 2010, when President Goodluck Jonathan announced a presidential approval for the licensing of community radio stations across the country and accordingly delegated his powers under the Constitution to issue broadcast licences in this regard to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the statutory regulator for the broadcast sector.
It is worrisome that three years on there is still no indication of the implementation of this important directive despite the apparent importance of community radio in giving voice to the masses, including the rural and urban poor, to participate in governance and contribute to developmental efforts of governments in their communities. The continued lack of implementation of this presidential directive, evidenced by the fact that no single community radio licence has been issued since then, seriously undermines the credibility of the Office of the President and is capable of bringing it to ridicule.
We hereby urge President Jonathan to take urgent steps to ensure that relevant government institutions and agencies give effect to his directive while the NBC should without further delay proceed with the issuance of community radio licenses.
White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting
It has come to our attention that the Federal Government has issued a White Paper on the report of the 22-member Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria. The committee was set up and inaugurated on October 13, 2008 and submitted its report in June 2009.
It should be recalled that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua had as far back as December 2007 approved the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting in Nigeria, with an effective date of June 17, 2012, in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolutions on the issue. It was to give effect to this that the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria was set up and inaugurated on October 13, 2008.
We observe however that the Federal Government has not made public the White Paper on the report although it has proceeded to set up an implementation committee. The report of the Committee itself was not subjected to public discussions by critical stakeholders. It is our firm view that this is not the best approach in dealing with a matter of such public importance in a democratic setting. In the circumstance hereby call on the government to make the White Paper public and open it up for discussions and consultations among stakeholders in line with democratic norms and practices.
Constitutional Backing for Independent Broadcasting
The on-going review of the 1999 constitution presents a unique opportunity for the country to strengthen the role of the broadcast sector in national development. It will be recalled that the broadcast sector was liberalized in 1992 through a decree issued by a military government. While the opening up of the sector to allow for private broadcasting was a very welcome development, the liberalization of the sector remains at best work in progress.
The current regulatory environment for broadcasting in Nigeria continues to fall far short of international standards, particularly with regards to the lack of independence of the regulator.
We urge the National Assembly in particular and other stakeholders in general to take advantage of the constitution review process by supporting the amendments proposed by the Media Network on the Review of the 1999 Constitution comprising the IMS, MRA, IPC, and other bodies including the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) as follows:
- The regulatory body in charge of broadcasting should be made one of the Federal Executive Bodies recognised in Section 153 and under the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. It should therefore be listed in those sections accordingly. This is due to the critical role the broadcast regulator plays as an essential tool in aiding the development of the country’s democracy through ensuring the effective development and regulation of the nation’s airwaves, which remains the most critical source of information for the generality of the citizenry. Making the broadcast regulator one of the Federal Executive Bodies in the Constitution would also guarantee adequate funding for its operations.
- In order to ensure that the broadcast regulator is fully independent of government, all members of its governing body should be appointed by the National Assembly after open public hearings, and they should be accountable to the National Assembly.
- The overbearing presence of government officials in the governing body of the broadcast regulator should be curtailed by removing representation for the State Security Service (SSS) and the Federal Ministry of Information from the membership of its governing body.
- The process of appointing representatives of the different interests groups that constitute the governing body of the broadcast regulator should include a requirement for consultations to be held with the various stakeholders in each of the named sub-sectors of the Nigerian society when selecting their representatives for appointment to the governing body.
- Members of the governing body and staff of the regulatory body should have security of tenure and clearly defined conditions of service.
- Part of the functions of the regulatory body should be exclusive power or right to issue and revoke broadcast licenses, through a transparent process with clearly stated criteria that are publicly available. This function should not be exercised with reference to or under the instructions of any other authority but the decisions of the governing body in this regard should be subject to judicial review. Consequently, the proviso to Section 39(2) of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to reflect this principle of empowering the regulatory body to so act.
Akin Akingbulu: Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC)
Edetaen Ojo: Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Lanre Arogundade: International Press Centre (IPC)
Lere Oyeniyi: Institute for Media and Society (IMS)