Some stakeholders in the broadcasting industry have endorsed the amendment of the enabling Act of the National Broadcasting Commission to strip the President of the statutory power of approving broadcast licenses in the country.
The stakeholders made the submission on Wednesday in Abuja at a public hearing on a Bill to amend the NBC’s establishing Act.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the public hearing was organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation and Ethics and Values in Abuja.
The participants argued that the office of the President was too busy with other state matters and this had led to delays in the approval of licenses for broadcast stations.
They contended that approval for broadcasting licenses should be solely vested on the NBC without recourse to its supervisory Minister and the President.
NAN reports that the extant NBC Act provides for the commission to collect and collate applications for Television and Radio licenses for onward transmission to the Minister of Information who supervises the commission.
The Minister would in turn forward the collated applications to the President for approval.
The Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society, Nigeria, Dr. Akin Akingbolu, said the NBC should be vested with full regulatory powers, including the power to grant and renew licenses.
Akingbulu said by so doing, the process would be protected from political interference and other interests.
He said: “Section 2 of the Act prescribes the powers of the NBC, but snatches away one of the most important powers of a broadcasting regulator: the power of authorisation of broadcasting licenses.
“It only receives and processes applications.
“The approval segment of the licensing process is done between the Ministry of Information and the Presidency, where it is finalised.
“This makes the regulator a post office and its technical/professional decisions subject to political considerations.
“In the absence of set timelines, the process keeps applicants waiting for long periods.”
In his presentation, the Executive Director, International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, corroborated Akingbolu’s position on the need to confer on the NBC the sole power of approving licenses of broadcast stations.
Arogundade, however, opposed another provision in the Act, which vested the NBC with the sole right over tariff issues.
Like other regulatory institutions, he said, the appointment of the NBC Board, including the Director-General, should be subject to the confirmation of the National Assembly.
“Giving the NBC the sole right over tariff issues, which cannot be interfered with, could be interpreted as an ouster clause that arrogates to it arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in the court of law,” he said.
NAN reports that the amendment bill, sponsored by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, seeks to strengthen the NBC and make it more effective.