Following the suspension of the Broadcast License of DAAR Communications Plc; owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM by the National Broadcasting Commission ( NBC ), the President of the Nigerian Press Organization (NPO), has convened a meeting to resolve their face-off.
The NPO, comprising of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria ( BON ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors ( NGE) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists ( NUJ), convened a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
The meeting which was hosted on Sunday, by elders and patrons of NPO, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua and Sam Amuka, had in attendance, the Director General & CEO, NBC, Ishaq Modibbo -Kawu; the founder and Chairman, DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications PLC, Raymond Dokpesi jnr and the GMD, DAAR Communications Plc, Mr Tony Akiotu.
Others includes: MD, AIT, Mrs Tosin Dokpesi; Company Secretary DAAR Communications PLC, Barrister Donatus Anopuo; Publisher, VANGUARD Group, Uncle Sam Amuka; Patron NPAN,
Mallam Ismaila Isa and President NPAN, Nduka Obaigbena.
At the meeting, NBC restated their commitments to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under sections 22 and 39, which states amongst others that the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media are to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in the 1999 constitution and ensure the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
The NBC also raised concerns about the non-adherence of the DAAR Communications group; AIT/Ray Power, to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, despite repeated interactions on same.
The NBC further cited lack of editorial balance by DAAR Communications, as well as the lingering issue of non-payment of national network license fees by DAAR Communications.
In response, DAAR Communications Plc. 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.
DAAR further stated that it had made some payments on account to the NBC, but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payment plan they submitted to the NBC.
DAAR explained that the defaults were due to decisions jointly reached at BON meetings by all broadcasters to engage and renegotiate the cost of license fees with NBC, in view of the current difficult economic realities affecting the industry.
After the dialogue, all parties resolved that DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the NBC, and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan.
They also resolved that DAAR will appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary, who will also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.
Following this NPO statement, the NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc, and DAAR will withdraw its case in court, against the NBC.
They finally resolved that all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.