The Nigerian Community Radio Coalition in collaboration with Institute For Media And Society (IMS), Community Media Solutions and Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA) organized a one-day Policy Dialogue, held at Chida International Hotel, Abuja on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Participants at the dialogue included the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze; and the Honourable Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, represented by the Director General, Nigeria Film and Video Censor Board, Mr Emeka Mba. Also present were the President of World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Mr Steve Buckley, a top official of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr Jonathan Bacon and the Programme Director of Panos Institute West Africa, Madame Pauline Bend. Other participants represented development agencies, grassroot communities, civil society groups, media, academia, among other groups. The dialogue was chaired by Professor Alfred Opubor of West African NewsMedia and Development Centre (WANAD), based in Cotonou, Republic of Benin.
Participants discussed issues which included the institution, environment and directions of advocacy for community radio as well as its capacity for addressing contemporary development and governance issues in Nigeria.
It was observed that despite the widely acknowledged fact that community radio gives voice to the voiceless and thereby contributes to widening and deepening democracy;
• Nigeria continues to lag behind other African countries and the world at large on account of the lethargy in the development of community broadcasting and the consequent exclusion of a large proportion of Nigerians from participating actively in development processes.
• The relevant development indicators that will show Nigeria as one of the first 20 economies of the world transcend mere economic indicators. They are composite indices that express overall human development including access to media. Hence, there are salient connections between community radio and the Seven-Point Agenda, Millennium Development Goals, Vision 20-20-20, Re-branding Nigeria project and other strategic plans of the Nigerian government.
• Many years after the Federal Government embarked on a policy reform process which involved the review of the 1990 National Mass Communication Policy and the design of a National Community Radio Policy, it has not concluded this process through releasing the final documents to the public.
• A broadcasting law reform bill was introduced to the National assembly by the federal government in the early days of the return to civil rule. The bill was not passed into law and has not been re-introduced to the Assembly by the executive branch of government.
•The regulatory body, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), has created space for community broadcasting in its regulatory framework, but it has not licensed community radio stations.
• The broadcasting regulatory process currently harbours indices of lack of transparency. Among these are that:
– beyond the submission of applications for broadcasting licenses, neither the public nor applicants have access to information on what happens to applications, and no explanation is provided for applications that are denied approval
-the conflict resolution and sanctions mechanism begins and ends with the NBC; there is no provision for appeal to any internal body or the law courts.
• As advocacy for community radio enters its sixth year, the Community Radio Coalition needs to review and re-energize its advocacy in order to mobilize greater support from important sectors such as the media, and thereby deepen the awareness of the general populace on the need for development of the community radio sector in Nigeria.
• Communities have not been fully mobilized and sufficiently empowered to bring to bear their constitutional rights and powers as voting citizens as well as their direct access to various levels of government on the advocacy for community radio in Nigeria.
• As we approach year 2011 and the commencement of electoral activities, the capacity to push community radio advocacy may diminish, as all activities in the political arena may be concentrated on electioneering.
• We call on the federal government to:
– Authorise National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to start processing and issuing community radio licenses for all types of communities identified as eligible for community radio licenses in the NBC code. Community radio will contribute in substantial ways to the implementation of government’s strategic programmes and the achievement of identified governance goals
– Release the final document of the the reviewed National Mass Communication Policy and the National Community Radio Policy.
• We call for renewed attention to broadcasting law reform. Media pluralism stakeholders, including the federal government and the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition, should re-introduce the review of NBC Act 38 of 1992 (as amended by Act 55 of 1999) in the National Assembly.
• We urge the two Chambers of the National Assembly (the Senate and House of Representatives) to positively and expeditiously engage this legal reform process as well as the slowed down policy reform process.
• We call for a review that will make for greater transparency and accountability in the overall regulation of broadcasting, particularly by providing avenues of appeal (outside the NBC structure) to applicants who may feel they have been unjustly denied broadcasting licenses or broadcasters who may feel they have been unjustly sanctioned by NBC. In this connection, the upcoming review of NBC code should involve community radio and other media pluralism stakeholders.
• We call on the Community Radio Coalition to:
– Adopt a new community-centric advocacy strategy which will capacitate and empower CBOs and indeed the ordinary community member and thereby develop a direct community-government advocacy channel that will enable communities to play more active and more direct roles in the advocacy for community radio
– Adopt a more strategic approach to the legislature and thereby employ all constitutional avenues to both the executive and legislative arms of government in its future campaign for the development of true community radio in Nigeria.
– Further articulate the connections between community radio and government’s various strategic programmes and thereby provide some of the important insights required for the fulfilment of these programmes
• We call on development organisations (local and international) to provide support for the advocacy for community radio and capacity-building for communities planning to establish their own radio stations across the country.
• We call on the media to develop ownership of the community radio development process by engaging advocacy on a consistent and continuous basis.
Issued this 21st day of April 2009 in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria.