Five days monitoring of the prime news bulletins of both the government-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and privately-owned Channels Television revealed that the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is almost given a total blackout in both news reporting and commercials. Our reporters monitored Channels Television’s prime time news at 10pm from last week Monday to Friday; as well as NTA’s 9pm network news from Monday to Thursday. Analysis of the result shows that for the four days monitored, NTA broadcast 27 political stories with PDP having 22, APC two and three slots for other political parties. The breakdown shows that on Monday PDP had seven political news items during the network news while APC had only one. On Tuesday, PDP had six, APC nil; PDP had four and APC nil (Wednesday); PDP had five and APC one while other parties had one (Thursday). Also, NTA aired 20 adverts during the network news for the four days monitored. All the adverts were sponsored by the PDP thus: six on Monday, five on Tuesday, six on Wednesday and three on Thursday.No single commercial sponsored by the APC or any other opposition party was aired on NTA during its network news for the four days under review. On the other hand, Channels broadcast 31 political reports during its 9pm news from Monday to Friday, of which 24 are for PDP and only seven are for the APC. The breakdown shows that on Monday, PDP had five and APC one; Tuesday, PDP six, APC one; Wednesday, PDP four, APC three; Thursday, PDP seven, APC two; and Friday, PDP two and APC nil.A total of 17 political commercials were broadcast during the 9pm Channels news for the five days under review, and they were all from PDP and none from APC. Apart from that, NTA and African Independent Television (AIT), a private media outfit, had run malicious documentaries on the APC presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari and national leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.The documentaries were run in breach of the laws of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON). The documentaries violated Section 3.1.2 of the NBC Code which states that “materials/statements likely to incite or encourage the commission of a crime or lead to public disorder shall not be broadcast.” APCON law also provides that anything radio or television commercial between five to 60 seconds must be cleared by it before it is broadcast. Also, any sponsored message, with the exception of public announcement and obituaries, must be certified by APCON before it is published in the print media. Daily Trust learnt that even when malicious materials are broadcast or published, APCON only punishes the erring media by stipulated fines of N1.5 million and N500,000 for broadcast stations and print media respectively.We’re shut out by NTA, AIT – Buhari campaign The APC presidential campaign organisation complained that the government-owned NTA and privately-owned AIT do give them blackout. The campaign media and publicity director, Malam Garba Shehu, said even though NTA and AIT broadcast malicious documentaries against their presidential candidate and the party, but the same stations demand APCON certificates before running their adverts. “Despite running malicious documentaries against us, both NTA and AIT demand APCON certificates before accepting our documentaries. And APCON doesn’t give us such certificates,” he said.“The question now is who certified such malicious documentaries aired by NTA and AIT? Certainly, they are outside the APCON/NBC criteria. But they are allowed. But our own are denied,” Shehu said. He said that the stations equally broadcast malicious statements that are ordinarily supposed to be adverts by the PDP presidential campaign spokesperson Femi Fani-Kayode. “These stations give Fani-Kayode enough air time to attack the opposition. But the same stations don’t carry that for the opposition,” the opposition campaign spokesman said.We maintain balanced reportage – NTABut the NTA head of corporate affairs, Mrs Funke Oga, said the station maintains balanced reportage all the time.Speaking to Daily Trust on Tuesday Oga said “we maintain balance reportage always. Even lesser political parties are given full coverage by our station.”She said ‘‘we give PDP, APC and even other lesser political parties full coverage.” But when our reporter drew her attention to the skewed nature of the station’s reports last week, Mrs Oga insisted that “I don’t believe you. I ask you to go and watch NTA right now.”On adverts, she said the station doesn’t reject advertisement placements from the opposition.Talking about the malicious documentaries broadcast by the station, she said: “We don’t reject adverts from political parties. We follow the dictates of NBC and BON to the fullest.”Several attempts to speak to the officials of Channels yesterday were not successful.We’re incapacitated –APCON The registrar/chief executive of APCON, Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi, said his organisation is statutorily incapacitated in sanctioning the erring organisations. He said media outfits violate the law because of monetary concessions, adding that APCON can do very little now because of its laws. “APCON doesn’t have the power to close down media organisations. We can only issue query, and at best fine the organisations.” Kankarofi explained that “everything you see is happening because the penalty against radio, television and newspaper houses is too insignificant.” He added that most of the media outfits have the belief that “is it not better to breach the law, take the (malicious advert) money and pay fine of just N1.5 million instead of losing N25 billion for just a day?” He however added that INEC guidelines can punish political parties for publishing malicious adverts and of course people will abide by the rule.Speaking to our reporter in Lagos, APCON’s head of regulation, monitoring and enforcement directorate, Iyoha Ijedi, said quacks go to the media to place unapproved materials. She said: “Governor Ayo Fayose’s ‘death wish’ advert on Buhari didn’t pass through APCON and when we saw it, we actually wrote the newspapers to stop it and that was the only time the material was published.” We’re still investigating – NBC In its reaction, the NBC said its committee set up to investigate the hate documentaries against Buhari, the APC and Tinubu is yet to conclude its work. NBC’s director and head of public affairs, Awwalu Salihu, said “Nigerians should be rest assured that no one found guilty of the hate documentary saga will get away with it. The monitoring committee setup to look at the complaints lodged by people is still sitting and I would not want to preempt its conclusions but we are assuring Nigerians that NBC is non-partisan, we will do the right thing if anyone, any station, no matter the political party he or it belongs to, is found wanting.” On why the NBC allowed the hate documentaries to run in the first place, the NBC’s director of public affairs said “the commission is not a censor’s board which has the power to view programme before it is aired.” He added that “NBC does not have the power to compel the stations to show them what they will air before airing it. We are not a censor’s board. The stations know the rules already. It is when we see that the rules have been broken that we act; we don’t act before the airing of the programme and we don’t have power to view programmes before being aired.”
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