The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Daar Communications have resolved their weeks-long confrontation, days after Daar’s broadcast stations were shut down by the regulator.
A statement by the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) said the truce was secured on Sunday night by a committee that was set up to look into the face-off between NBC and Daar Communications’ AIT and Ray Power FM.
The NBC will lift its ban on the stations, while Daar will withdraw its lawsuit, both sides agreed.
The television and radio stations were forced off air on June 6 by the NBC, a government body that regulates broadcast media across the country. The agency accused AIT and Ray Power of breaching its controversial broadcasting code by airing “unprofessional” contents to foment national division and incite the public.
Daar Communications accused NBC of “witch-hunt” because of its perceived tilt towards the opposition.
Raymond Dokpesi, the founder of Daar Communications, has been a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for several years; while Modibbo Kawu, the director-general of NBC, has been a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and has continued to play partisan politics since he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016.
Following a lawsuit by Daar Communications, a federal court in Abuja invalidated the suspension of AIT’s licence, saying it was premature because of an ongoing litigation between the parties.
A nationwide outrage greeted the government’s action, with many civic groups condemning it as repressive and anti-democratic.
Following a series of talks between the parties over the weekend, an agreement was reached that participants said would engender a cordial relationship between the NBC and Daar Communications’ media outlets, of which AIT and Ray Power FM are the most prominent.
The talks were convened by the Nigerian Press Organisation, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and NPAN.
Amongst those in attendance were Mr Kawu, Mr Dokpesi, Raymond Dokpesi, Tony Akiotu, Donatus Anopuo, Sam Amuka, Ismaila Isa and Nduka Obaigbena.
A statement on the meeting said although Mr Kawu acknowledged that the Nigerian Constitution enumerated the role of the media as the institution responsible for holding power to account, the NBC chief lampooned the AIT for failing to adhere to its broadcasting code despite repeated cautions, the NPAN statement said.
The NBC also accused AIT of failing to pay its national network license dues.
Daar Communications 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, NPAN said.
The broadcaster, however, admitted it was behind on some fees, but blamed it on an agreement uniformly reached by BON-member stations.
Mr Kawu insisted that the dues were non-negotiable because they were statutory for all stations, and a plan for payment was worked out.
Following the dialogue dialogue, all parties resolved as follows:
1. 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;
2. 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;
3. Following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc;
4. DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and;
5. All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.