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
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