By Rita Esegine
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has described as drastic, dramatic. draconian, and debilitating, the recent withdrawal of the licenses of some television and radio media houses in Nigeria, by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
NLC said NBC’s action has in no small measure; direct effect to staff and millions of Nigerians who follow programs from the affected media houses, and also showed how insensitive the regulatory body is to the welfare of Nigerians who work in the affected media establishments.
In a press statement signed by the Labour Centre’s President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC conspicuously said; “It is unthinkable that in the middle of very traumatic economic realities, government would be thinking of flinging many Nigerians into the unemployment market. Well, this is not new. A few days ago, the Nigeria Governors Forum made a case for the mass sack of Nigerians in government employment. The unsolicited advice which had been robustly deflated by the NLC reveals a very embarrassing underbelly in the thinking of those commanding the reins of power in Nigeria today. Crass insensitivuty. This is very sad and unfortunate.”
Partly, the statement titled: “Withdrawal of the Licenses of Media Houses: A Slippery Road to Press Emasculation”, reads; “It was with disbelief that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) received the news of the withdrawal of the licenses of 52 media houses including both electronic television and radio media houses. The reason given by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was that the affected media houses failed to pay for thew license renewal.
“While we understand that the NBC has a regulatory duty to ensure rules keeping, we believe that the action taken by the NBC is a llttle too drastic, dramatic. draconian, and debilitating not only for the affected media houses but also for their staff and indeed millions of Nigerians who follow programs from the affected media houses.
“The first natural instinct to the withdrawal of the operating license by the NBC is the Idea that the affected media houses did not deliberately avoid paying for their operating licenses. Such would be akin to cutting so close to the bone. The most palpable reason for the failure of many of the media houses to pay for the renewal of their operating licenses could be easily found in the deteriorating economic conditions in Nigeria. This is understandable given the severe stress and strain: that businesses in Nigeria have been subjected to owing to fallout of the COVID l9 lockdown in 2020, the ongoing disruption in global and domestic energy supply, the foreign exchange volatilities, and the associated hyper inflation.
“Many media houses just IIke most businesses in NIgerIa suffer the double jeopardy of estalating business costs and plummeting revenues. Largely to blame for this sad state of affairs is government which mismanagement of the economy has ensured that a litre of diesel is now knocking at the borderline of N I 000. To compound the situation is the epileptic supply of electricity with the national grid collapsing intenmttently for the umpteenth time In recent months.
“In addition to the soaring and scary rising energy costs which hit electronic media houses hardest given that they must always be on air whether it makes economic sense or not. There are salaries to pay, maIntenance services, and sundry basic operating costs to keep the media houses running and serving their listening and viewing public. Amidst these operational suffocations, how does the NBC expect the media houses to generate the money to renew thelr operating IIcenses? Indeed, Nigeria medIa houses should be euloglzed for resilience, and tenacity in the face of prevailing economic blizzards.
“The action of the NBC also smacks of lnsensItIvlty to the welfare of the staff of the media houses which operations are being shut down.
“In defence of the media, democratic and economic rights of Nigerians, we call on the NBC to rescind this decision to withdraw the operating licenses of the affected 53 media houses. In light of our foregoing concerns, we urge that the media operating licence be reviewed downwards as information dissemination is a social service.
“Albeit, we just received with some reIIef new reasoning by the NBC to allow the affected media houses to continue to operate. This is commendable. Yet, our contents conveyed in the foregoing subsist.”