Opinions

Why campus and community broadcasters should adhere to operating guidelines

From one licence granted the University of Lagos in 2002 to operate campus radio station primarily for training purpose, the list of campus broadcasters has grown tremendously. The figure, as at last count, stands at 68 while that of community broadcasting is 41. But the growth has also brought about new challenges, which the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) identified as violation of code of practice guiding the operation of community and campus broadcasting.

Addressing a gathering last Wednesday in Kano, Director General of the NBC, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, frowned at the conduct of practitioners over issues bordering on breach of the code for campus as well as community broadcasting


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The two-day event also witnessed the official presentation of the 6th edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code for the entire broadcast industry. Kawu said though Nigeria has made progress, there are challenges   that need to be tackled. According to the DG, “there are issues that have arisen, that made it imperative for us to call this gathering.

According to Kawu, “the Code is very clear about the status of the Campus Broadcaster; it is “ licensed principally to train students in broadcasting and other related fields… and to provide opportunities for practical experience as well as promoting social well-being of the campus community.” And central to the existence of the campus broadcaster, is that it shall be managed “as a non-profit and campus development tool,”according to The Code.

He said further that “the sources of funding are also explicitly stated: “a. subventions; b. spot announcements from within the Campus community (not exceeding nine minutes in every one hour broadcast); c. donations or grants; d. events coverage within the Campus community; e. sale of station’s memorabilia.

“And in respect of political coverage, The Code emphatically stated: “The campus broadcaster shall not carry political adverts, campaigns, jingles or cover any political activity outside the campus.”But contrary to the rules of engagement, many campus radio stations installed transmitters with power, far more than they were legally allowed to, under the terms of their licenses. Yet others operate as if they are commercial broadcasters, desperate for advertising and forgetting the imperative of using the stations as basically training platforms for potential broadcasters, being trained in their institutions.

He also identified the challenges the Commission has observed with community broadcasting. He said, “as for the community broadcasters, we have noticed that many operators misunderstand the community imperative central to their licensing. Some basically think they are money-making venture, while some individuals actually think they can own the community radio.

“In the last elections, we received reports of community stations that were jostling for political advertising just like the commercial operators. Yet others deviate from assigned frequencies or want the power of their transmitters to rival those of the commercial broadcaster. But the position of The Code is explicit: the community broadcaster, is “a non-profit, grassroots public service broadcast medium, through which community members are able to contribute and foster civic responsibilities and integration. 

“And in respect of funding, The Code stated this must come from: “a. resources of the community raised through levies, contributions and membership fees; b. donations, gifts or grants; and c. local spot announcements”. We have called this gathering so that we can explore your experiences of running campus radio and community broadcasters. We want to hear from you the operators on the challenges you face, and how your platforms can operate better, within the context of the laws setting up your operations.

According to the DG, “our hope is that the campus broadcaster can genuinely assist to entrench professional ethics, through a most focused approach to training, which can then influence the industry in general. There is a huge gap in the quality of training as well as the quality of professionalism in our industry today.

“Similarly, we want to see the community broadcaster become genuinely what they were set out to be: ‘a key agent of democratization for socio-cultural, educational and economic development…owned and controlled by the community’. Please let us use the opportunity of our gathering in Kano, to engage robustly and freely for the improvement of campus and community broadcasting in Nigeria.’

On the new code, Kawu explained, “the 6th Edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been enriched at three levels. Our Commission had commissioned a major study of hate and dangerous speech in Nigeria, against the background of the widespread abuse of the broadcasting standards, in the lead to the 2015 General Elections.  Even then NBC, as the broadcasting regulatory institution, became sucked into the vortex of the controversies of that era in our national history.  We therefore felt that we needed to strengthen the position of the Code, in respect of hate and dangerous speech.

Similarly, new controversies emerged around the nature of local content, and the definition of what was acceptable as local content.  It was clear, that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code needed to become strongly affirmative of the national aspiration to create and defend jobs in the creative industries within the Nigerian economy.  And that patriotic, affirmative aspiration has been reflected in the letters of the 6th Nigeria Broadcasting Code.  A final point of interest is related to the previous one, and that is in the manner that the 6th Nigeria Broadcasting Code has also reflected the conviction that our sports in general ought to get the advertising funding support that matches a reasonable percentage of the huge amount of advertising spend that supports foreign sporting activities.”

Prof. Umaru Pate, Dean, School of Post-Graduate Studies, Bayero University anchored the review of the new code.He said, “the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code is an upgrade of the fifth edition. In each edition, the quality improves. A careful reading of the latest one reveals adjustments, additions and amendments in some areas like chapters six and seven. This is understandable. A living Code is expected to be dynamic, undergoing regular modifications to cater for emerging realities based on evolving contemporary situations dictated by fluid technological developments, socio-political changes and economic modifications.”

“The Nigerian broadcasting Code is a very important instrument that provides a clear pathway for upholding and sustaining professionalism in the country’s broadcast industry. It gives us the distinctive clarity and unique identity to differentiate professional broadcasters from quacks masquerading as broadcasters. Other advantages of the Code include: serving as a guide for broadcasters, defending the public’s rights in broadcasting, defining the responsibilities of broadcasters, setting standards of gathering and presenting information and above all, promoting, protecting and preserving the integrity of broadcasters and broadcasting while protecting the interest and unity of Nigeria. Therefore, it is understandable why the Code is emphatic on broadcasters understanding the Constitutional section on Fundamental Principles and Directive Principles of State Policy.

“However, good as the Code may look, it can only be better and relevant if it is extensively understood, professionally respected and widely enforced in the industry. Studies by various sources have revealed that there is high level awareness among broadcast personalities and lecturers in universities on the existence of the previous Codes; that did not, however, translate into comparable level of knowledge of the specific details of the Code. The evidence of the low level of knowledge is commonly observed in many of the reports on breaches from the NBC and complaints from the public. The NBC may need to intensify its enlightenment and continuous education activities among broadcasters, teachers of upcoming broadcasters and the print media and organized audience clubs or interest groups. This is essential to ensure that the document is readily available, user friendly and fully grasped by every stakeholder. If the general public is familiar with the provisions of the Code, individuals can easily hold broadcasters accountable for their actions.”

Culled From TheGuardian Newspaper

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