The Federal Government on Wednesday sought power to regulate private broadcasting in the country using the internet and other online outlets, saying the government has an obligation to monitor broadcast content.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke at a public hearing on a bill to amend the National Broadcasting Act organsied by the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values said the National Assembly should amend the existing NBC law to include internet broadcast and all online media broadcast in the country.
But stakeholders in the industry including the Institute for Media and Society, International Press Centre and Centre for Media Law and Advocacy said the inclusion of internet broadcast and online media to the category of broadcast service licenses will be injurious to the civic space, freedom of expression and media freedom.
However, Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila said when passed the contents of the bill will substantially influence the creation of media content in the country.
But the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria who are the major beneficiaries of the regulations of the National Broadcasting Commission was conspicuously missing at the public hearing.
The Minister was reacting to the provisions of section 2c of proposed law which listed the categories of licenses to be granted which include Cable television Services, Direct Satellite broadcast, Direct to Home, IPTV, Radio, EPG and Digital Terrestrial television; radio and television stations owned, stablish or operated by the federal, state and local governments, Broadcast signal distribution, Online broadcast, community broadcasting, public service broadcasting, among others.
He said “I want to add here specifically that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content, including twitter.”
On the proposal that the NBC should regulate and provide digital broadcasting in Nigeria in line with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agreement referred to as Regional Agreement GEO6, 2006 in a manner that will be cost effective for Nigeria, he said the nation’s laws cannot be made subservient to any treaty
He said; “With due respect, our laws cannot be subservient to international telecommunication union treaties. It is true that we are part of the treaty, but our laws and act cannot be made subservient to any treaty. Treaties re made, but our laws will have to protect peculiar situations in our country. So, will suggest we take another look at this.”