Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One tooth-full bulldog

That some networks have defined programs like “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones” as educational, indicates that there is still plenty of work to do – extract from Zigler chapter 3.

Quite likely a grin which may result from reading the above sentence is immediately wiped off, following the revelation that after over thirty years of struggling with the television industry and federal groups to regulate the contents viewed by children, the advocacy group, Action for Children’s Television (ACT) ended its activities in 1993, following the retirement of its founder, Peggy Charen.

This only goes further to aggravates my concerns about the loose if not outright absent control of the content matter that are aired on the television, across the nation. Perhaps the reason I am yet to come to terms with the reality on ground is because indeed all the three types of government (colonial, civilian and military) that have ever functioned in Nigeria have implemented policies that have kept the media in check. The Nigerian broadcasting Corporation (NBC) which some critics have described as a paramilitary outfit is the regulator and controller of the broadcasting industry in the nation, an industry which has grown quite rapidly since its deregulation in 1992.

The most significant task of the NBC is in the form of the regulations contained in its Code. Some of the specific rules which include:to promote and uphold the sanctity of marriage and family life; not to show liquor consumption and smoking, unless it is consistent with plot and character development; to promote national cohesion, national security, respect for human dignity and values; and to broadcast with good taste and decency.

The Code also contains strict guidelines in a number of other areas such as respect for women, advertisements, the protection of children from obscene material, harmful or deceitful advertisements and exploitation. Often, a mere likelihood of the undesired result is enough to constitute a breach of the Code, even though the result does not occur.

The NBC is indeed one “tooth-full bulldog” with a range of sanctions, ranging from the revocation of licenses, immediate shut down or sealing up of the transmitter and stations, to various categories of fines.

But again with continuous backing from the government; as well as steady sources of funds which includes amongst others budgetary allocations made to the Commission in the country’s annual budget and percentage of fees and levies charged by the Commission on the annual income of all licensed broadcasting stations, no one really expects anything less.

Although the political interference in the activities of the Corporation has been criticized by some quarters, yet others have applauded the regulation of contents that are transmitted from media houses across the nation. In the meantime child advocates for the most part have one less thing to worry about – the television.