Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Two Bans, Many Views; in Late March, the Nigerian Authorities Banned the Live Relay of Foreign News Because Some of Them

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Two Bans, Many Views; in Late March, the Nigerian Authorities Banned the Live Relay of Foreign News Because Some of Them

Article excerpt

The ban on live relay of foreign media programmes by Nigeria's local media was one of two such proscriptions made the same day in late March by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), a Federal Government agency responsible for the regulation of broadcasting in the country.

The other was the publicity of supposed religious miracles, a stunt which the teeming, largely unctuous, new-generation churches have found quite rewarding in their rather desperate drive for membership.

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The ban on the miracle messages have attracted mixed reactions. Those who think that these Nigerian variants of the hallowed, usually rare, supernatural phenomena are dubious public nuisance are celebrating the proscription of their publicity in the secular electronic media. Less critical followers of the miracle-monger ministers, though, are furious, and by mid-April appeared to have found support in some members of the Federal House of Representatives trying to influence its reversal.

The ban on the live relay of foreign news is a different kettle of fish. Most ordinary Nigerians commenting on the event have been against the ban. "Even under the military dictatorships of General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha, we, the poor ones, who couldn't afford cable television were allowed these free options," a housewife in Enugu who said she used to watch a re-broadcast of the US-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) told New African.

Gabriel Osu, a Catholic priest and mass communications scholar who is also the director of Social Communications at the Lagos Catholic Archdiocese, captured the common liberal view when he said: "The whole scenario brings back bad memories of the Iron Curtain era of the old Soviet Union." But Silas Yisa, the head of the NBC, has defended the ban, saying it was necessary because "apart from the perspectives the foreign broadcasts convey, it is a professional aberration for a station to relay any news content over which it has no editorial control." Such broadcasts, he added, "posed a danger to national security" and warned that defaulting stations would face severe sanctions.

The ban has since stopped international stations like the BBC from broadcasting news and programmes on FM in Nigeria. BBC broadcasts had been relayed live for the past six years by local FM stations in many cities, including Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Port Harcourt. …

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