The Nigerian Press Organisation comprising the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and the Nigerian Guild of Editors, has settled the rift between the National Broadcasting Commission and Daar Communications Plc, the parent company of the Africa Independent Television and Raypower.
The NPO said in a statement by its President, Nduka Obaigbena, that both parties had agreed to sheathe their swords.
According to the organisation, Daar Communications will withdraw the case it instituted against the NBC in court while the commission would also rescind its suspension of AIT and Raypower 100.5FM.
The statement read in part, “Following this NPO statement, the NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc. DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the NBC and all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.”
According to the statement, AIT also pledged to improve its reportage to ensure fairness and balance.
The founder of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, also promised to ensure swift payments of all dues to NBC.
It added, “DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the NBC and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan.
“DAAR Communications Plc. will appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary; it will also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.”
Earlier in the meeting, the NBC restated its commitments to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under sections 22 and 39 to hold governments accountable.
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 then 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.
However, 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 stated it had made some payments to the NBC but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payment plan they submitted to the NBC, and 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. But the NBC insists that license fees are statutory and thus non-negotiable.
Apart from Dokpesi and Onaigbena, others present include- the Director-General, NBC, Kawu Modibbo, Founder, Vanguard Group, Sam Amuka-Pemu and Chairman, Bulet International Construction Company, Isa Funtua; and other employees of Daar Communications.