OPENING REMARKS BY AG. DIRECTOR GENERAL, NBC, PROF. ARMSTRONG IDACHABA, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS MEETING ON POLITICAL BROADCAST TOWARDS THE 2020 EDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION HELD IN BENIN ON AUGUST 12, 2020. PROTOCOLS12th August, 2020
OPENING REMARKS BY AG. DIRECTOR GENERAL, NBC, PROF. ARMSTRONG IDACHABA, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS MEETING ON POLITICAL BROADCAST TOWARDS THE 2020 EDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION HELD IN BENIN ON AUGUST 12, 2020.
It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst today. Edo state is undoubtedly one of the politically vibrant states in Nigeria and we all share a common stake in ensuring that democracy is deepened in the state through the conduct of a successful governorship election, which is not only free and fair but peaceful and issue based.
Interestingly this is the first gathering of the regulator, stakeholders and broadcasters since the outbreak of the pandemic. Let me again use this occasion to appreciate broadcasters for the uncommon patriotism and sacrifices made in the heat of the Corona virus disease.
You worked under very difficult conditions to provide Timely Basic Information to Nigerians. Many of you set aside regular programmings, coming up with jingles and enlightenment programmes.
It is with pleasure that government, through the NBC, have reciprocated by offering you a huge discount of 60% on your indebtedness, as well as a 30% discount on licence fees. I urge you to take advantage of this gesture to get a clean slate for your media outfit.
The Edo state governorship election is coming at this trying time when we are still battling the common enemy, Covid-19. Let us be mindful that the threat of the virus is still real. Broadcasters must work safe and stay safe.
Technology should become an increasingly important part of campaigns. Already, technology mediated communication is the order of the day on our airwaves; more television interviews are happening via skype and radio interviews over the phone, rather than in studios. Broadcasters and politicians alike should therefore embrace this reality.
In adherence to guidelines by health authorities, over crowded rallies and large town hall meetings, which was the norm, are not advisable due to the need for social distancing. Broadcasters should therefore brace up to the challenge of providing un-evented media coverages to politicians and political parties. Much is on your laps to generate the voter enthusiasm that encourage the electorate to go to the polling booth.
While speakers after me will dwell more on professional coverage of political broadcasts, let me express my gladness that the broadcast climate in Edo state has widened. We now have a rich blend of public and private broadcasters. Access and the plurality of opinion and information that aid political decisions should therefore abound.
As broadcasters, you should be mindful that you set the tone for the conduct of elections. The content of your broadcasts either moderate or spike the tempo of elections. You should not allow politicians and other interested parties to use your medium to heat up the polity. You should be mindful of what you put on air. This requires that you go back to the drawing board and remind yourselves of the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
It is noteworthy that the stipulations of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code on political broadcasts are in consonance with the extant laws of INEC and other relevant agencies.
This is the time that we should all be guided by the consideration that every political broadcast should be in decent language and devoid of hate speech, inflammatory, derogatory and divisive remarks or allusions.
As stated in the Code, a partisan broadcast is one in which the political party is allowed to explain its manifesto and programmes. It is not for running down the candidate of a rival party.
Latest monitoring reports available to me indicate the following:-
• Too often campaigns are reduced to a jamboree of name callings, maligning opponents and spreading unsubstantiated allegations. Broadcasters owe the electorate a duty through their coverage to refocus campaigns to be issue based. It does not have to be mudslinging to make the headlines. The onus is on us all to ensure and guarantee that there is peace and unity beyond September 19.
• Let me therefore warn that the period where negative, inciting and abusive comments are tolerated in broadcast is over. Any station found violating the provisions of the Code will be sanctioned according to the law.
• It is the editorial responsibility to ensure decent political comments on its station. We shall not tolerate the excuse that the programme is Live or that anchors are unable to regulate utterances of guest.
• I have directed the Zonal Director Benin to inspect all broadcast stations in Benin Zone and ensure that stations have installed technical capacity to delay or beep out unwholesome content during Live Broadcast. I commend stations who are already doing this.
• Station owners are to ensure that their programme anchors are professional, experienced and capable of handling difficult guests and callers. Stations who fail to do this will face the necessary sanctions.
Together, we can achieve the elections of our dream which starts with keeping campaigns within civil borders. On this note, I welcome you all and declare this event open.