Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says broadcasters must ensure that democracy is sustained in Nigeria.
He said they must also give airtime to election coverage, educate citizens on the right voting procedure and entrench fairness if they are to strengthen democracy.
The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba was speaking at the second National Broadcasting Commission annual lecture in Abuja with then theme: ‘Broadcasting, Democratization and the challenges of the new Nigeria’.
The Minister puts in perspective how the 2015 elections were exacerbated with needless inflammatory and hate speeches.
“These, no doubt, created tension and gave our country a bad name. You may recall for instance, that in the run-up to the elections, a broadcaster o n national television, during prime time, aired a documentary – sponsored by an amorphous group called “Wake Up Nigerians.
The program ridiculed a presidential candidate and invaded his privacy. It also broadcast various unprintable hate contents. “Hence, broadcasters can be inimical to the growth of democracy if not careful or, if not patriotic. The broadcaster therefore has a huge responsibility, not only to broadcast the truth, but also to teach ethical values and respect for culture and tradition,” the minister explained.
Alhaji Mohammed says a well-regulated broadcast environment should promote access to a wide range of information and ideas, from various sectors of the society.
According to the Minister, “a well-regulated broadcast environment, Contributes to economic, social and cultural development by providing a credible forum for democratic debate on how to meet common challenges. Such environment holds those in power in every sector of society accountable.
It is an established fact that such credible regulator and broadcast environment provide credible and varied programming for all interests, those of the general public, as well as minority audiences, irrespective of religious beliefs, political persuasions, culture, race and gender.”
He advised industry players to promote the principles of free speech and expression as well as free access to communicate by enabling all citizens, regardless of their social status to communicate freely on the airwaves.
“ They should also ensure that religious broadcasting is fair to all and devoid of extreme religious beliefs or religious intolerance and also promote national security as this is very critical in all societies of the world,” he noted.
Digital switch over
He also said that the Digital Switch over is very much on course in Nigeria with the successful launch of the Jos Pilot Scheme and that they are looking forward to the time that Nigerians across the spectrum will reap the benefits.
“Government has licensed thirteen (13) Set-top-box manufacturers who will establish manufacturing plants in the country to produce the set-top boxes.
Some of them have already commissioned factories or signed MOUs with foreign partners to enable them to meet the time frame given to them by the Commission for the production and supply of STBs. Indeed some are already producing Set Top Boxes in Nigeria,” Alhaji Mohammed explained.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the NBC, Mallam Ishaq Modibbo said It is a well-known fact that the NBC licenses, regulates and monitors the broadcasting industry in Nigeria and that NBC also has the mandate to advice government on the country’s mass communication policy in general.
“We are conscious of the fact that the broadcast regulatory functions of the NBC will continue to evolve, in order to keep pace with the dynamics of societal development and the technologies which continue to change the manner that we deliver broadcasting and we are ever ready for the challenge,” Mallam Ishaq Modibbo explained.
The Director General said democracy is an open forum of engagement between the citizen and his government; and it is important to incrementally deepen the content of Nigeria’s democracy too.
“By bringing us together as we have done today, the NBC also proudly associates itself with the consolidation of Nigeria’s democracy,” he added.