By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The faceoff between the DAAR Communications Plc, owners of African Independent Television, AIT, and Ray Power as well as the National Broadcasting Communication, NBC, has been resolved.
The resolution was brokered by media stakeholders principally led by the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) on Sunday in Abuja.
A statement by the President of Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nduka Obaigbena, at the end of the meeting, directed Daar Communications to work out a new realistic payment plan of its license fees with the NBC and ensure prompt payment in accordance with the new plan.
According to the statement, the media organization should to “take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.”
It directed the Daar Communications to withdraw its case in court, against the NBC while “all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.”
At the meeting, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) restated their commitments to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under sections 22 and 39 to hold governments accountable, which states amongst others that the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media are to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in the 1999 constitution and ensure the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
The NBC also raised concerns about the non-adherence of the DAAR Communications group (AIT/Ray Power) to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, despite repeated interactions on same.
The NBC cited lack of editorial balance by DAAR Communications as well as the lingering issue of non-payment of national network license fees by DAAR Communications.
DAAR Communications Plc. defended its position saying it gives its team freedom to make editorial commentary on issues of the day relying on Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas without interference.
The DAAR Communications stated that it had made some payments on account to the NBC but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payment plan they submitted to the NBC, and explained that the defaults were due to decisions jointly reached at BON meetings by all broadcasters to engage and renegotiate the cost of license fees with NBC, in view of the current difficult economic realities affecting the industry.
However, the NBC insisted that license fees are statutory and thus non-negotiable.
According to the statement by Obaigbena, “After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties resolved as follows:
*DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan.
*DAAR Communications Plc. will appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary; it will also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets;
*Following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc.
*DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and;
*All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.
Among those in attendance at the meeting were; Ishaq Modibbo -Kawu – Director General and CEO, NBC, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi, jnr, Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications PLC; Mr Tony Akiotu, GMD, DAAR Communications Plc; Mrs Tosin Dokpesi , MD, AIT; Barrister Donatus Anopuo, Company Secretary DAAR Communications PLC; Uncle Sam Amuka, Publisher, VANGUARD Group;
Mallam Ismaila Isa, Patron NPAN and Nduka Obaigbena, President NPAN and President NPO.