President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the issuance of operating licences to 213 new public and private broadcasting outfits in the country.
The Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Ishaq Modibbo-Kawu disclosed this on Tuesday in Port Harcourt at the opening of the 71st General Assembly of Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).
Giving the breakdown, Modibbo-Kawu said that the president approved 147 new FM radio licences; 23 DTT Television licences, three new national radio network licences and two national television licences.
He said the commission had also received presidential approval for 16 campus radio stations; 24 community broadcasters and three public organisations FM licences.
The Director-General said that the total of 213 licences were the single largest number of stations ever licensed at any point in Nigerian broadcasting history.
He reiterated the importance of BON as the umbrella body for all the broadcasting outfits in the country.
“Our industry is opening up and the importance of broadcasting will become greater as a contributor to the economic fortunes.
“It is also a platform of molding the values of national development,” he said.
The NBC boss raised concern over the spiking of hate and dangerous speech, that was freely broadcast on leading television networks.
He said the NBC commissioned a major study of Hate and Dangerous Speech in Nigerian broadcasting, using the 2015 general elections as a case study.
“The Validation Report from that study has been presented in Kano; Enugu and Sokoto.
“We will similarly present the report very soon in Lagos and at a big national gathering of broadcasters and other national institutions in Abuja.
“The NBC has also gathered a lot of experience from elections in Anambra; Ekiti and Osun states,” he said.
Modibbo Kawu cautioned that as the country entered the season of heightened political activities, en route the 2019 general elections, NBC would not hesitate to sanction erring stations.
“For us at the NBC, we cannot be responsible for the statements that politicians make.
“It is important to remind the broadcasting outfits in BON, that you would be liable for any violations of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code by the politicians that you broadcast live during political rallies.
“So it is your responsibility, not just to collect those huge sums politicians are willing to pay; but you must make them remember the liability you carry for decency in what comes out on radio and television.
On the on-going Digital Switch Over (DSO), he said work had been completed on digital mapping of the country.
He said the mapping was critical to speedy completion of the DSO.
“We now know the number of transmission sites that would be needed and all the strategic partners in the DSO can now adequately plan their place in the process.
“The Signal Distributors have also prepared a Rate Card that would be presented to this Assembly for a robust discussion before it is validated.
“We have also approved a new Verimatrix Conditional Access System and an alternative platform, to enhance a competitive DSO process for our country,” he said.
Modibbo-Kawu said the payment the NBC made to one of its Signal Distributors, Pinnacle Communications was justifiable.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) had alleged infraction in the payment running to N2.5 billion.
He, however said with the fund, Pinnacle Communications had installed some of the best transmission systems in the world for the DSO, in Kaduna and Abuja.
“We are launching very soon a Push Video-on-Demand pilot project in Abuja and Kaduna.
“This would offer opportunity to watch Nigerian films with our Set Top Boxes.
“It will also assist the process of eliminating the menace of piracy.
“I feel a disappointment, that most of you have not rallied in defence of the investment done and the quality of broadcasting, as well as the entire DSO process, that the false reports were targeted at undermining,” he said.
The DG reminded BON members of their licensing fees obligations to the NBC.
He said many broadcasting organisations had refused to pay, as and when due.
“Many of you canvass the unacceptable argument about the economic situation in the country.
“But licence fees are statutory, and those who do not pay should not be on air! It is as simple as that!
“That is the iron logic of capitalist economics.
“I will like to remind all those who are owing the NBC these statutory licence fees, that we would visit you very soon, before you collect the huge sums from the political parties.
You would either pay us or you would be shut down and so would unable to collect money for political broadcasts!,” he said.
Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike who declared the event opened said that BON had great role to play in the 2019 general elections, adding that prompt and accurate report of events would aid the process.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, the governor said the state had provided friendly environment for broadcasting and investors in the sector.
He disclosed that out of hitherto 250 existing broadcasting outfits, 25 were located in the state.