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Clerics reject Society Of Nigerian Broadcasters Bill, describe it as threat to Democracy and national security

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The College of Bishops, Imams and Clergy Councils has unanimously rejected a bill titled the Society Of Nigerian Broadcasters which is currently before the National Assembly.

The bill when passed into law aims to duplicate the functions of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission,  NBC.

Convener of the group,Abel Kings at a news conference in Abuja said the group is always ready to address issues that may prompt sentiments and are at variance with nation building.

He condemned the recent action of the former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Professor Tony calling for self-regulation of the media in Nigeria.

“Iredia’s call is meant to give impetus to the bill to establish the so-called Society of Nigerian Broadcasters (SNB) before the Nigeria’s National Assembly. However, Iredia’s position, like the bill he seeks to support, is fraught with dangers, which should make such a piece of legislation not to be contemplated at all, tendered for consideration, or even allowed to see the light of the day.

“The Society of Nigerian Broadcasters bill is based on a faulty logic, that is, self-regulation in an industry where professionalism is completely lacking or totally absent. It is a bill which attempts to undo the role of the National Broadcasting Commission as the independent government agency responsible for regulating, monitoring and sanctioning erring violators of acceptable media ethical and professional codes. Although, this is not to undermine the core media values exhibited among some practitioners, most people who find themselves in the media or call themselves media practitioners, journalists, or broadcasters in Nigeria do not have the formal or rigorous training attained by doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals to allow them to self-regulate themselves or their activities.  They lack the basic training and education on professional and ethical conduct as media people or broadcasters.

“In the history of broadcast in Nigeria, broadcast practitioners come from journalism, mass communication, English, Linguistics, Sociology, Political Science, Estate Management, among other courses offered in the universities or polytechnics. Most of these courses have nothing to do with broadcast or media practice.  With advances in social media, bloggers who could afford a piece of tablet or android phone and can post anything online call themselves journalists, media men or broadcasters. Yet, the foundational values which produce a professional media man or broadcaster are lacking in them and, therefore, it will serve no useful purpose to allow such a group of people to self-regulate their own activities when, in a practical terms, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) empowered to regulate the activities of broadcasters, has been regulating the media so well.

“Self-regulation, that is, entrusting the regulation of activities and conduct of members of the media in the hands of the society of broadcasters might look attractive or even desirable. However, in using the long practice established for doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, among other professional bodies, it might be rightly argued that broadcasters or media practitioners in Nigeria should not be allowed to self-regulate their own activities and conduct of their members.  This is because a negative picture presents itself which makes the idea of allowing broadcasters to self-regulate themselves dangerous. For example, some people take to media as a means of survival. Others have a passion for journalism or media but do not possess the requisite training and education. Yet, with the exception of a few, others take to journalism with the requisite knowledge and experience but the aim is to advance their sinister motives or those of their organisations, which often set what they do against the ethical codes established for all media practitioners by the independent body, the National Broadcasting Commission. As it said, those who pay the piper detect the tune, journalists or broadcasters might find it difficult observing ethical and professional codes were big corporate bodies employ journalists and control what they do or write. These motives often make journalists to undermine the ethical and professional codes of journalism or broadcasting, especially where their own organisations or colleagues are accused of violating the broadcast codes. Thus, allowing broadcasters, journalists or media people in Nigeria, a collection of disparate individuals and groups with different philosophies, ideologies, interests and training to make regulations and set enforcement of policies that affect the consumption of media contents, will affect the goals of national unity, peace and patriotism, which the National Broadcasting Commission has been trying to protect right from time by making regulations to guide the conduct and activities of broadcasters. In fact, having a parallel professional body to self-regulate the activities and conduct of its members will pose a risk in the industry as they will subvert the processes already entrenched by the National Broadcasting Commission. Indeed, the bill is a mere duplication of function already assigned to the National Broadcasting Commission, which gives its unhindered latitude to make regulations, monitor broadcasters and establish an institute for the development of professionalism among broadcasters in Nigeria.

“Self-regulatory bodies, such as the one sought to be established now, might claim that they will protect the interest and welfare of the public. They will also claim that it will promote self-development of broadcasters.  However, as it is common with such bodies prone to influence and corruption, the treatment of excesses and unethical conduct  by their members could arise only out of the desire to deal with public scandals which might hurt public’s interest and welfare. Unlike the National Broadcasting Commission, the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters will lack transparency, neutrality and fair disclosure necessary for the unbiased functioning of the body. Such a body will, therefore, create room for the abuse of free speech. Media contents require censorship by an independent government agency that owes its allegiance to no media organisation or individuals in order not to allow practitioners unrestricted freedom to create and disseminate media contents where the enemies of state could use to undermine national security with sensational reportage. Unlike doctors, engineers, lawyers, among others, who spend much of the years of their education and training mastering their obligations to the society, freelance journalists cannot be trusted to imbibe and cultivate the mores and ethos of media practice as most of them share content without consideration of the consequences of the reports to Nigeria’s national security.

“As a respected media personality, therefore, Iredia does not show patriotism by his attempts to obfuscate the real issue, thereby misleading the public—which is a disservice to the media community he represents as well as a disservice to his own country. Regulation, as he should know better, is not gagging the media but ensuring that media contents must meet certain acceptable minimum standard and ethical codes.  Such regulations are required so that non-state actors could not exploit the chaotic media environment to share contents that could plunge the country into unimaginable crises” he said

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