The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) enjoined broadcasters to provide a level playing field to all political players, registered political parties and candidates.
The Director-General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Ilelah, made the call in Abuja, at a sensitisation forum to usher in political campaign.
The forum had as its theme: ‘Towards a Fair and Responsible Broadcast Coverage of the 2023 General Elections: A Multi Stakeholders Dialogue.’
He urged broadcasters and anchors of political programmes to guide their platforms well and ensure that guests abide by the broadcasting code and all legal provisions guiding broadcasting internationally.
He warned broadcasters that denying airtime access to any group was prohibited.
“This is in addition to ensuring equity in airtime allocation and coverage of political parties’ activities particularly during prime times. It is also the time for you to make money from political adverts and campaigns but ensure that this is done within the ambit of Law,” Ilelah said.
The NBC DG also charged broadcasters to handle live political rallies with care and due professionalism, in addition to studio-based live political interviews/broadcast.
He said because of the sensitivities of such programmes, broadcasters were advised to install delay mechanism.
“Remember that broadcast stations are held responsible for any breach. The stations shall therefore, assume and accept editorial responsibility. I also use this opportunity to remind broadcasters not to allow any form of hate speech, fake news, derogatory or divisive remarks and any incendiary broadcast on their platforms.
“However, if your political content is indecent and hateful, then a station is allowed to turn it down and give reasons why it cannot be taken.
The Commission also uses this opportunity to tell Nigerians that they can complain to the NBC if content on any station annoys their sensibilities or sensitivity,” he said.
Similarly, the NBC boss called on broadcasters to ensure that every partisan political broadcast was recorded off transmission and preserved for 150 days after broadcast.
Ilelah tasked anchors in the spirit of fairness to manage their political guests well and do not allow them to malign others especially those not present on the programme.
On his part, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the media play a critical role in ensuring a more effective public enlightenment on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 in particular and other aspects of the electoral process in general.He said political parties, candidates and their supporters as well as the media have a responsibility to operate within the confines of the law and the provisions of the commission’s rules and regulations.
He noted that campaigns should be devoid of hate speech; abusive, intemperate or slanderous language; insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke violent reaction; physical attack on supporters of one party by another or destruction of campaign materials.
“Specifically, Section 95 of the Electoral Act 2022 defines the responsibilities of political parties and candidates, the media and public institutions. It also provides sanctions for violations.
“For instance, in the course of our numerous interactions with political parties over the years, many have complained about the denial of access to public facilities for meetings and rallies, exorbitant charges for signages and billboards, and equal access to State media,” Yakubu said.
He warned that it was illegal to use the power of incumbency to deny opposition parties access to public facilities, adding section 95 (2) (3) (4) (5 )and (6) are unambiguous particularly 95 (2) which states the advantage “State apparatus or disadvantage including of the any media political shall party not be or employed candidate to at any election.
He said failure to comply with the provisions of the law attracts sanctions against both the media organisation and its principal officers as clearly provided for in Section 95(6)