A three-day Nigeria Community Radio Stakeholders Conference was held in Makurdi, Benue State, from November 23 to 25, 2009 as part of the struggle which culminated in the formation in 2005 of what is now known as the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC). The Coalition was formed to sensitize and mobilize stakeholders and heighten advocacy to address the yawning gaps in the Nigerian broadcasting landscape that were and are still undermining democratic participation and efforts at national development.
The Conference, which theme was “Strengthening Advocacy, Re-energizing Community Capacity Building”, was organized by the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition with the support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom. It was attended by participants drawn from Ministries, Departments and other agencies of Government; traditional rulers and other community leaders; the academia; Nigeria Union of Journalists; campus radio operators; community development associations; advocates of community radio and development communication; development partners; World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC); and other stakeholders.
- Participants were unanimous that community radio, because of its immediacy, simplicity, cheap and participatory nature, use of indigenous and other community languages, and ability to reach large audiences, is the most effective medium of mass communication for driving development projects such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Vision 2020 and the Seven-Point Agenda of the Federal Government.
- Participants acknowledged positive actions of the Federal Government and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in granting 27 licenses to campus communities, and also commended the Federal Government for the steps taken to institute appropriate policy framework in the communication sector.
- However, they expressed serious concern over Federal Government’s slow pace in the overall process of allowing Nigerian grassroots communities to own community radio structures. Hence, they re-stated the benefits of community broadcasting which include its use for accelerating food security, conflict prevention and peace-building, re-vitalization of cultural values which are needed to build a virile democratic society.
- They noted that Nigeria is the only country in West Africa that does not have community radio structures and therefore not benefiting from the advantages of dialogue and popular participation which are important ingredients in democracy and development.
Conference recommendations are as follows:
Federal Government is urged to:
- Act expeditiously to adopt the draft reviewed National Communication Policy and the Community Radio Policy, and give appropriate directives to the regulatory body to licence grassroots community radio stations.
National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should:
- Come up with a framework through which other subsets of community radio can operate just as it had done in the case of campus radio, exercising its powers under Section 20 of the National Broadcasting Commission Act No. 38 of 1992, as amended, to make regulations for giving effect to the provisions of the Act.
- Ensure that license for community radio is issued free of financial cost and that minimal charges are required for renewal and other administrative matters.
- Issue guidelines on equipment specification and standardization on community radio in line with UNESCO Training Manual Specification and the principles set out by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).
- Allocate transmission wattage to community radio stations on the basis of need and as dictated by geographical conditions of coverage area.
- Liaise with campus radio operators, the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC) and other stakeholders, to work out effective and appropriate revenue generation processes.
- Exempt community radio stations from the requirement which compels broadcast stations to remit 2.5% of their total annual turnover to the Commission, since the operational philosophy of the radio stations is not profit oriented.
- Should allow networking among community radio structures and between the Structures and other broadcasters.
Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC) should:
- List all legislations that constitute obstacles to community radio development and sustenance or undermine the effectiveness of regulatory bodies, with a view to taking steps to address them.
- Develop a process of appropriate community ownership of community radio structures.
- Enjoin communities that are committed to owning community radio stations to be patient and allow appropriate policies and regulations to evolve and guide the operations of community radio structures.
- Forge a stronger working alliance with all media and the wider civil society to amplify its voice on advocacy for full development of community radio in Nigeria.
- Intensify sensitization and mobilization in communities for community radio development across the country.
Campus Radio Operators should:
- Develop a business plan and establish appropriate governance or management structures that are representative of their communities, while at the same time guaranteeing the editorial independence of the campus radio stations under their control.
- Ensure that their radio stations operate in line with professional standards and best global practices.
All Freedom of Expression Stakeholders should:
- Intensify advocacy for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill into law by the National Assembly and assent by Mr. President.
Issued in Makurdi, Nigeria, this 25th day of November 2009.