SPEECH PRESENTED BY DIRECTOR-GENERAL NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISION (NBC), AT THE OCCASION OF THE 2017 STAKEHOLDERS’ NIGERIA BROADCASTING CODE REVIEW RETREAT, AT THE BRISTOL PALACE HOTEL KANO, 15TH – 17TH MAY, 2017.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Board of Management (BOM) and members of staff of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), I will like to welcome you to this truly remarkable city of Kano. For many of the people who have known me over the past couple of decades, they would certainly not be surprised that we are gathered here in Kano, for the review of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. This is one of my favourite cities on earth. I have always been fascinated with this truly remarkable city with its thousand-year history as a center of commerce; learning and a region of remarkable agricultural fecundity. When the learned 16th Century visitor Al-Hassan Ibn Muhammad Al-Wazzan (Joannes Leo Africanus) visited Kano, he attested to its remarkable agricultural richness. And it was in this city that the famous Maghreb scholar, also of the 16th Century, Abdulkarim Al-Maghili (a near-contemporary of Nicholo Machiavelli), wrote a treatise titled OBLIGATION OF PRINCES, for the famous Habe Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa.
I studied here at the Bayero University in Kano, up to the Master’s Degree level. I then reported for the BBC World Service as well as Radio France International. I tore through Kano’s multi-layered history to bring the story of this city to the world. And at the personal level, my aunt was married to the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero! So this city has defined my life at several levels. It was therefore natural for me that we chose Kano for this very critical assignment. In my view, we could not have chosen a better location for our work. For those who are coming here for the first time, I am sure you would be very impressed by the grandeur of this great city of the old Western Sudan, with its rich history and its very friendly people.
On the 9th of August, 2016, just about 3months into my tenure as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), we had gathered in Kaduna, one of the three cities that I reside in, for the review of the Nigeria Broadcast Code. That was the INTERNAL PHASE of our work; we brought members of staff as well as some of the veterans of the NBC together, to carry out the main work which has brought you all to Kano. We had an intensive three days of work, which brought out the best of our veterans as well as our staff. The commitment to turning out the document in the form that we would work on in the next couple of days here in Kano, was testimony to the patriotic and professional commitment of our veterans and our staff. As I told that gathering in Kaduna, over nine months ago, we see clearer from the perspective of present thoughts and labour, only because we stand on the shoulders of giants of our Commission, past and present. I can borrow those sentiments, when I look at the array of people gathered today, to underline just how lucky we are, that you all accepted our invitation to be part of this historic gathering, in this city that is steeped in history, culture and learning.
As you all know, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code is the most important guiding document for our professional engagement in Nigerian broadcasting. It is the platform which helps us all navigate our ways through all that we do in broadcasting. What is different this year, is that we have broadened the base of the Code Review process, by not only bringing the veterans of our industry, and our licensees; we have also ensured that we invited members of civil society organizations, especially those who have devoted significant labour to issues that concern the media in general, and broadcasting in particular. Our intention is to build a broad consensus around the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. We want to turn out a document that is fit for purpose in the broadcasting environment of the 21st Century, with its fast-paced developments, especially with the manner that new technologies are affecting how we carry out broadcasting, as well as offering remarkably new challenges for regulatory institutions, around the world. At the National Broadcasting Commission, we believe fervently, that this document must be in tune with Nigeria’s democratic aspirations, while it must achieve the buy in of all the critical stakeholders in our profession. As I told our colleagues who gathered in Kaduna, in August 2016: “The Nigeria Broadcasting Code should reflect the very best elements of Nigeria’s democratic aspirations and should become a document that is for and of the Nigerian people”.
These are exciting times in our professional life. The National Broadcasting Commission is at the moment leading the process of transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. In looking at the challenges of the new phase of broadcasting development, which digitization would unleash I had urged our colleagues in Kaduna, last year, to put the salient issues in their minds. Permit me to quote from my speech nine months ago: We are gathered to review the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, at a most critical, but exciting phase in Nigeria’s broadcasting history…The world of broadcasting is definitively evolving from what we have always known, to a new era, with its peculiar challenges: the exciting possibilities as well as the frightening ghosts that might accompany the transition. As regulators of Nigerian broadcasting, we are therefore at the forefront of the changes that digitization will bring forth, while also being caught up in the vortex of forces that the transition we are helping to bring about, might unleash. This is why the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has become even more essential as an instrument of regulatory work. It is the central instrument that helps us to keep the industry on the straight and narrow path of the highest professional and ethical standards.
This gathering will have to examine some very critical challenges, and we have offered tentative guidelines in that respect. These include the phenomenon of Hate Speech, a subject that coloured Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections, and which haunts the media space today. NBC commissioned a major study of the phenomenon of Hate and Dangerous Speech, because of the frightening consequences for national security. We are also challenged in our profession, by issues associated with Editorial Control of Content and the use of Credible News Sources; there is the reality of False News, which has haunted the media, even in other democratic countries. Nigeria too faces the danger. Similarly, Advertising and the revenue deriving therefrom, affect the operations of our licensees, especially with unverified claims; media rating; data gathering; advertisement timing; advertisement debts and cross platform usage. Broadcasters must begin to also deal with licensing issues and licensing fees in the digital era, an area that can be very contentious, as I have discovered over the past year. We must also increasingly begin to think about the promotion of public service broadcasting in Nigeria, in the service of public good; the creation of platforms for children’s programs; documentaries and other programming formats that address social issues related to the development process. And we must not forget issues of plagiarism and piracy, which affect our work, but which the digital era can assist us to curb. This is not an exhaustive list at all, but our colleagues can catch a whiff of the work ahead.
I hope the work that we are gathered to do at this retreat in the next few days, will help us concentrate minds about the challenges of the next phase of broadcasting’s evolution. We must have a Code that anticipates the challenges of the new era. Happily, in my view, we have brought to work with us individuals whose professional lives have very much been walked on the path of not only helping to create the Code, but helping to enforce its words.
In my view, this gathering is very capable of giving us a Nigeria Broadcasting Code that we would all be very proud of! This is one of the many reasons why I am delighted that we are all gathered this week in Kano. It might also interest you all to note, that I was appointed as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), by President Muhammadu Buhari, a year ago, this month; it would be exactly a year, on the 24th of May. Time moves very fast! Incidentally, I was also first hired by the defunct Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), forty years ago, this year, on February 1st, 1977. I went to work as a very young man, and in the forty years since then, our country, Nigeria, has given me an incredible opportunity to develop my professional abilities, and it also generously allowed me to contribute to its development in radio and television broadcasting; I then got the opportunity to be the Editor of a newspaper, the Chairman of the Editorial Board of two newspapers and a columnist for three newspapers, before being asked to become the regulator of Nigerian broadcasting, as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), by President Muhammadu Buhari. That is why I am totally committed to this assignment, because it is a very special privilege to be beaconed to serve our wonderful country. The work we will do in the next few days, will determine the shape and contour of Nigerian broadcasting over the next few years. I have no doubt in my mind, that this truly representative gathering will turn out a Nigeria Broadcasting Code, that we can all be very proud of! I want to thank you all for accepting our invitation to participate in the making of Nigerian broadcasting history.
Thank You very much for your attention.