projects and questions begging for answers

Irreconcilable Media Debt
The question of who owes who and how much is involved is as old as the advertising

business. But till date, none of the practitioners has come out to name the

culprits. Year in, year out, sectoral bodies trade blames, accusing each other of

being short changed. Those at the center of the duel are mostly media owners, on

one hand, and agency owners alongside advertisers, on the other hand.

In what looked like a major step towards resolving the puzzle, the leadership of

the Advertising Practitioner Council of Nigeria, under the former chairman, Mr.

Chris Doghuje, provided a report last year, which tried to answer some of the

questions surrounding the controversial issue. Despite the effort, the affected

parties could not be said to have totally agreed on the actual sum owed, as there

was clearly a difference between the figure the media owners presented and the

report of the APCON Special Committee on Media Debt Issues (ASCOMDI).

In the report on industry debt, between 2001 to 2006, the claimed indebtedness was

put at N1.145 trillion, agreed indebtedness was put at N83 billion, while the

variance in the indebtedness was said to be N1.062 trillion. Also, the committee’s

findings showed that out of the initial claim of N1.2 billion made by media owners

against AAAN members, N766. 4 million was traceable to non-members of the

association.

In the summary of the debt profile, the report also faulted the claim of

indebtedness of N1,145,732,661.65 against AAAN and MIPAN members, stating that

after the necessary reconciliation, only N83,002,766.34, could be traced to the two

bodies, translating to a variance of N1,062,729,895.31.

In 2012, it is expected that the present APCON council, under Mr. Lolu Akinwumi,

would resolve the difference.

Analogue to Digital Migration

If everything works out as planned, June 17, 2012, would usher in something new in

the broadcasting industry. By then the industry would have fully transited from

analogue to digital tansmission, a status that see Nigeria’s broadcasters standing

at par with those from other advanced nations.

The date is three years before the June 17, 2015 deadline for the entire world to

transit to digital transmission, which was agreed by the International

Telecommunications Union after its Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2006.

Though Nigerians cannot wait for the date to pass, there are fears in many quarters

that it could be a tall dream, if some fundamental issues are not addressed prior

to the D-day.
During the 50th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, held

in Lokoja, Kogi State, in 2009, the former governor of the state, Ibrahim Idris,

urged broadcast stations in Nigeria to demand a shift in the deadline because of

concerns that it was not feasible considering the huge capital outlay required for

the digitasation process.

According to the governor, the U.S., in spite of the abundant human and material

resources at its disposal, spent 10 years to fully migrate from analogue to digital

transmission. Idris said that it was only logical for BON to ask for an extension

of the deadline to enable broadcast stations move to the new technology smoothly.

But in what looked like a contrary view, the chairman of BON, Malam Abubakar

Jijiwa, disagreed and confidently informed participants that the deadline was

possible if all stakeholders contributed their quotas. To this end, he appealed to

the federal and state governments to muster the political will and release the

required funds for the stations to enable them meet the 2012 deadline.

Nigeria officially started the digitisation of its broadcast industry in December

2007 following President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s approval. With just six months

before the proposed date, it is not clear if stakeholders in the broadcast industry

are certain that June 17 deadline will still be met.

Enforcement of FoI Law

When President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law 48

hours before he was sworn in, journalists and members of civil society groups saw

it as the beginning of better days in the country. Seven months after, there are

indications that the opportunities in the law have not been fully explored.

At the last town hall meeting, organised by the Newspapers Proprietors Association

of Nigeria to debate the proposed removal of oil subsidies, some participants,

including Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana challenged journalists and public officers

on the law.

Again, at the 25th anniversary of the death of the pioneer editor of Newswatch, Mr.

Dele Giwa, which was organised by the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Union of

Journalists, the president of the Nigerian Guide of Editors, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye

said it was surprising that despite the clamour that heralded the passage for the

FoI bill, most journalists did not know its content and usefulness.

To this end, Adefaye urged media practitioners to wake up to the importance of the

law as it would be of great advantage to Nigerians if the capacity to use it was

well spelt out.

In a recent interview with THISDAY, the director of the International Press Center,

Mr. Lanre Arogundade, while dismissing insinuations that the law could be abused by

journalists, said its proper application and usage would help the country reduce

corruption and check the excessiveness of corrupt leaders.

Lamenting the situation in the past, when Nigerians were kept in the dark on the

exact figure of annual oil sales, the IPC chief said, “Hardly has there been any

year when we got accurate figure of our oil sales. The result from the NNPC would

be different from the one that would come from the Budget Office. But with this law

in place, one is not in doubt that things would change for the better,” he said.

Beyond its positive contributions to media practice, Arogundade also said the law

would strengthen Nigeria democratically.

Year 2012 could be the year that will determine whether Nigerian journalists and

public office holders would use the law to engender accountability and

transparency.

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