The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has expressed worry over the shutting down of over 50 broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for allegedly failing to pay their renewal licence fees.
NGE in a statement by its President, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, said that the action, if not reversed, would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in a country where jobs are scarce.
The professional body of all the editors in Nigeria in the statement said: “The NGE is worried because media houses, which played and continue to pay a key role in the nurturing and development of democracy can’t just be off air no matter the reasons.
“While the Guild is not against broadcast stations fulfilling their financial obligations to the NBC, we note that the current harsh operating environment that has crippled every sector in our nation was not taken into account by the NBC before its action.
“Currently, it is difficult for private stations to import broadcast equipment due to the high exchange rate. We are all aware of the high operational cost, including the cost of diesel to power their generating sets”, the NGE stated.
The Guild added that several broadcast stations are just managing to survive in the midst of the high competition in the industry following the licencing of hundreds of more stations by the NBC.
The NGE called for a review of the NBC Act to increase the lifespan of a broadcast licence from five to at least 10 years.
The body of editors also advocated a reduction of the licence fees considering the fact that several broadcast stations now operates in the country, saying for instance, the Lagos zone alone now has close to 50 radio stations.
Also, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, described Friday’s revocation of the operational licences of Silverbird TV, AIT, Raypower FM, and Rhythm FM amongst others as hasty.
NUJ National President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo in a statement of Friday, said: “The decision today by Industry Regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness to the commission was ill advised”. The affected stations, according to NBC are said to owe arrears of licence fees amounting to N2.6 billion since 2015.
Also reacting, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), in a statement by Ms Obioma Okonkwo, Head of its Legal Department, MRA said by the revocation of the broadcast licenses of so many stations for alleged non-payment of their licence fees, the NBC was prioritizing its desire to make money off the broadcasters over the interest of citizens as the ultimate effect of its action was to deprive millions of Nigerians access to information as well as their rights and ability to freely express themselves through these stations.