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Are media houses target for N5m Hate Speech fine in NBC Code?

In this report, Daniel Obi assesses certain provisions including the N5 million fine for hate speech offenders and the Content Exclusivity right as contained in the 6th Amendment of the Nigerian Broadcasting industry Code. If the news media is muscled, the society who seeks information for economic and business growth will be in peril in addition to affecting employment.

Hate Speech already in 1999 Constitution

There appears to be very little, if any doubt, that President Muhammadu Buhari is not a fan of free speech. In the 18 months he spent as military head of state in the mid-80s, the country was a human rights sinkhole, with press freedom abridged for fun. If that could be excused because it was a junta regime that was in power, such an excuse cannot be valid under a democratic government, which his government purports to be.

Buhari, as military Head of State in 1983-85, promulgated Decree 4, which did not take kindly to press criticisms. This saw two Nigerian journalists jailed. Drafted on March 29, 1984, Decree No. 4 was repressive and was similar to the provisions of Hate Speech Bill proposed by law makers early this year.

Section 1, sub-sections (i), (ii) and (iii) of the Decree – provided that: “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement, being a message, rumour, statement or report which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offence under this Decree.

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Even as an elected president, the record of his administration where media and human rights are concerned has been close to squalid. His image makers have tried to sell him as a born-again; a leader now persuaded that basic democratic freedoms matter, but they have been unsuccessful.

Early this year, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Aliyu Abdullahi sponsored a bill called ‘Hate Speech and Anti-social media’ to keep critics quiet. The content of the bill was not totally different from the provision of Decree 4.

Few months later, a credible intimation of Hate Speech bill has found its way into the 6th Amendment to National Broadcasting Code unveiled by Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information on August 4, 2020 in Lagos.

This time, the Code stipulates that those who fall foul of the provision of the broadcast code on hate speech shall pay a fine of N5m, which was raised from N500,000. According to the minister, this will compel media houses to scrutinise adverts and reports before publishing them. He said an offender who violates this law on three occasions will have the operating licence suspended.

Expectedly, all these repressive laws against the media under Buhari have attracted widespread criticisms from different corners, including the civil groups and stakeholders.

Frowning at these repressive laws, Femi Falana, a frontline lawyer who attacked the Hate Speech bill said then that democracy gives right to protest and complaint. “Democratic tenets allow freedom of expression but the Hate Speech bill is meant to restrict that,” he said. His view was not different from others.

Speaking on Channels Television Sunrise Daily, over the hate speech as contained in the NBC Code, Tonnie Iredia, a professor of Broadcast management and media law, said the issue of hate speech is a controversial matter and could be subject to abuse.

Unfortunately, what the bill and the Hate Speech provision in the NBC Code attempt to address have already been taken care of in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and other laws.

Section 39(1) of the Constitution guarantees Freedom of Expression as fundamental right, which is universally recognised and protected. However, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute as there are restrictions to the rights, one of which is found in the law of defamation, sedition and libel. If the Constitution had taken care of this restriction to free expression, why is National Assembly and NBC, supervised by Lai Mohammed, still interested in enacting another Code?

Iredia believes that the Information Minister has relieved the NBC of its autonomy, a development that may lend the provision on hate speech in the code to dangerous uses.

“Everybody expects a broadcasting commission to be an autonomous body that has no place in politics. If you listen to the news, who has been speaking? The Minister of Information. Is he the Director-General of the NBC?

He argued that criticism could also be tagged hate speech and thus the broadcasting code could be subject to abuse.

The latest NBC code for the broadcasting industry also has other provisions already designed fail.

NBC Code on content exclusivity

One of the contentious parts of the new Code is the provision against content exclusivity. Nigeria already operates a free market enterprise, which encourages competition to drive innovation, investment and, of course, profit.

What the new code on exclusivity attempts to do is to discourage competition in the broadcasting industry by introducing content sharing among operators. This has received wide condemnation among analysts as the purpose of the government doing away with exclusivity right of content may be counterproductive.

Under the Anti-competition provision, the Code rather states that “no broadcaster or Licensee shall enter into any form of broadcasting rights acquisition either in Nigeria or anywhere in the world to acquire any broadcasting right(s) in such a manner as to exclude persons, broadcasters or licensees, in Nigeria from sub-licensing the same”.

The intention of this provision, according to the Minister of Information, is to boost local content production and widen access to premium content. He believes that exclusive rights create monopolies by broadcasters who intend to hold the entire market to themselves.

Expected outcomes

Truly, government may have good intention by introducing sharing system of content in the broadcasting industry but in practice, the outcome may not be in tandem with government motives.

For instance, a copyright holder may likely sell his/her premium content for higher price on the disclosure that the content buyer will share the content with other broadcasting operators. The Code does not spell out the sharing formula which will be an issue but the Minister said the government will intervene when necessary. According to analysts, this will likely amount to regular unnecessary interference among private businesses.

With the sharing clause already enshrined in the code, this means that every content buyer will equally inform every content seller that the content to be purchased will be shared among other broadcasting operators in Nigeria. This will automatically raise the prices of all contents both locally and internationally whether other operators are interested in the content or not. This becomes extra and heavy cost to broadcasting operators with its consequences on advertisers and subscribers.

The Code appears silent on who initiates premium content buying. It seems that it was taken for granted that the richer broadcasting organisations will always buy the premium content and share with the other ones on lesser cost. This also means that if the richer organisations do not purchase the content for viewers, the subscribers are denied viewing of such content and the market losses.

Take the premium EPL matches as example which MultiChoice, owners of DStv presently has the telecast right. The right for this content every three years for Nigerian market costs about $100 million dollars which is about N45 billion.

Does the code entrust on any broadcaster the right to initially make the purchasing move and cough out the N45 billion to buy the content and then share to others? These are begging questions that need answer.

Alternatively, since Nigeria is a subsidy country and National Broadcasting Commission Code for the broadcasting industry appears to be underscoring this, government can acquire certain premium content rights including EPL and share to willing broadcasters for appropriate costs. If they pay for it, advertisers will move where the eye-balls are. Some broadcasting operators will lose and some will gain.

Certain provisions of the code are ambiguous, confusing and masked with statements that need explanation.

The Code, especially the provisions against exclusivity as it stands is good on paper as its implementation will result to unintended results. All over the world exclusivity is the lifeblood of all forms of print and broadcast media practise and when this is removed, the industry will likely collapse.

Following the Minister, Lai Mohammed statement that the e Broadcasting Code is not a static document as he sees even the 6th Edition of the Code can be reviewed at the appropriate time. It is therefore time for operators quickly meet with the regulator and present their views for the review of the document to protect industry from collapsing. Any code should be agreed and prepared by industry operators for the industry. This one has hiccups because it was prepared by government for the industry.

Mamador unveils Ufuoma McDermott, Ifeyinwa Mogekwu as brand ambassadors

PZ Wilmar has signed popular Nollywood actress, Ufuoma McDermott, alongside notable Chef and Food blogger, Ifeyinwa Mogekwu, also known as Ify’s Kitchen, as ambassadors, for its premium Master brand, Mamador.

Following the signing, the new ambassadors will now represent the Mamador brand, across its marketing campaigns.

Speaking about the signings, Marketing Manager, PZ Wilmar, Chioma Mbanugo, disclosed in a statement that the partnership with Ufuoma McDermott and Ifeyinwa Mogekwu, was borne out of the brands commitment to further promote tasty cooking and healthy nutrition, as well as the brand’s desire to foster family bonding and togetherness in Nigeria.

“As a Masterbrand, Mamador exists to inspire tasty nutrition for everyone, every day of the week. We believe tasty meals have the magic to foster family togetherness by involving, bonding over meals and connecting with family members through new dishes, sharing recipes, cooking together and enjoying good food.

“These women, Ufuoma and Ifeyinwa, have proven to be strong and passionate women, with admirable talents and principles, whose positive lifestyles inspire many, each and every day. Ifeyinwa as a Chef inspires many, not just on how to enjoy tasty meals but also how to prepare them. Ufuoma inspires many careers moms, as she manages the work-life balance to bond with her family and sustain an excellent family unit. For this and many other attributes, Mamador is happy to be associated with them’’

An excited Ufuoma during the signing, said, “I am pleased with the opportunity to partner with the Mamador Brand. Mamador is a brand my family and I are already used to and enjoy, so it is quite an honour to now represent the brand, this means a lot to me and I look forward to promoting family togetherness through making, sharing and enjoying tasty and nutritious meals with Mamador.”

Popular food blogger, Ifeyinwa, who also expressed her joy about the partnership, said that a good and healthy nutrition plays an important role in the overall health and wellbeing of families. This truth, the Mamador brand has advocated over the years and I am glad to be part of its advancement. “I am known to showcase and promote the making of tasty and nutritious meals and I am super excited as to the endless possibilities of working with a brand such as Mamador who understands the role tasty and nutritious meals play in bring families together and people generally” She said.

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