20th August 2022
WITHDRAWAL OF THE LICENSES OF MEDIA HOUSES – A SLIPPERY ROAD TO PRESS EMASCULATION!
A Press Release
It was with disbelief that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) received the news of the withdrawal of the licenses of 52 media houses including both electronic television and radio media houses. The reason given by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was that the affected media houses failed to pay for their license renewal.
While we understand that the NBC has a regulatory duty to ensure rules keeping, we believe that the action taken by the NBC is a little too drastic, dramatic, draconian, and debilitating not only for the affected media houses but also for their staff and indeed millions of Nigerians who follow programs from the affected media houses.
The first natural instinct to the withdrawal of the operating license by the NBC is the idea that the affected media houses did not deliberately avoid paying for their operating licenses. Such would be akin to cutting so close to the bone. The most palpable reason for the failure of many of the media houses to pay for the renewal of their operating licenses could be easily found in the deteriorating economic conditions in Nigeria. This is understandable given the severe stress and strain that businesses in Nigeria have been subjected to owing to fallout of the COVID 19 lockdown in 2020, the ongoing disruption in global and domestic energy supply, the foreign exchange volatilities, and the associated hyper-inflation.
Many media houses just like most businesses in Nigeria suffer the double jeopardy of escalating business costs and plummeting revenues. Largely to blame for this sad state of affairs is government which mismanagement of the economy has ensured that a litre of diesel is now knocking at the borderline of N1000. To compound the situation is the epileptic supply of electricity with the national grid collapsing intermittently for the umpteenth time in recent months.
In addition to the soaring and scary rising energy costs which hit electronic media houses hardest given that they must always be on air whether it makes economic sense or not, there are salaries to pay, maintenance services, and sundry basic operating costs to keep the media houses running and serving their listening and viewing public. Amidst these operational suffocations, how does the NBC expect the media houses to generate the money to renew their operating licenses? Indeed, Nigeria’s media houses should be eulogized for resilience, and tenacity in the face of prevailing economic blizzards.
The action of the NBC also smacks of insensitivity to the welfare of the staff of the media houses which operations are being shut down. It is unthinkable that in the middle of very traumatic economic realities, government would be thinking of flinging many Nigerians into the unemployment market. Well, this is not new. A few days ago, the Nigeria Governors Forum made a case for the mass sack of Nigerians in government employment. The unsolicited advice which had been robustly deflated by the NLC reveals a very embarrassing underbelly in the thinking of those commanding the reins of power in Nigeria today – crass insensitivity. This is very sad and unfortunate.
In defence of the media, democratic and economic rights of Nigerians, we call on the NBC to rescind this decision to withdraw the operating licenses of the affected 53 media houses. In light of our foregoing concerns, we urge that the media operating licence be reviewed downwards as information dissemination is a social service.
Albeit, we just received with some relief new reasoning by the NBC to allow the affected media houses to continue to operate. This is commendable. Yet, our concerns conveyed in the foregoing subsist.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
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