As Elizabeth Ellcessor (2020) points out, accessibility standards are performative “sites of negotiation and power”—in that they do not take on meaning until they are enacted (p. 243). She writes:
Media accessibility is many things to many people. It is access to a range of tools, services, information, interaction, and entertainment via hardware and software. It is a professional practice and a legal standard. It is also a deeply personal experience, forged in the specific material, sociocultural and embodied contexts of individual users. …..producing particular, intersectional articulations of bodies, technologies and societies (Ellcessor, 2020, pp. 249–250)
Undoubtedly, the progress of any society is an ongoing process, constantly evolving. This means that significance of broadcasting or communication media within a society should be highly emphasized by those committed to realizing developmental objectives and making substantial information accessible by the populace.
Whether it be resolutions from international organizations or plans established by the governing body, these goals rely on communication media to raise awareness and inspire people to wholeheartedly embrace and pursue the plans.
However, broadcasting keeps evolving and adapting as new technologies emerge, offering a growing array of communication channels for maximum news dissemination to Nigeria and internationally.
Against this backdrop, the purport of this paper is to explore how the modern broadcasting landscape, driven by information and communication technologies, can be utilized to create universal access and render services in radio and television in Nigeria, particularly to support and accomplish development goals at various levels of Nigeria society.
Therefore, the paper is anchored in the bid to rectifying the predicament of in accessibility of Nigeria citizens to the services rendered by Media which ordinarily should be universally inclined.
Keywords: Broadcasting, Universal, Accessibility, Television-Radio, Regulations, Fundamental Right
In Nigeria, universal access and service in television and radio broadcasting assures that every individual, regardless of location or socioeconomic status, must have an equal opportunity to access broadcasting services.
However, in order to achieve geographic coverage, affordability, quality, and diversity of programming, as well as to support public broadcasting during the transition to digital media, the government implements policies, the bogging question is whether the assignment of such policies has been done.
Be that as it may, it is the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to oversees broadcasters and makes sure that the stringent rules and procedures laid down in broadcasting functionalities are followed.
Significantly, it’s aim, in the meantime, is to bridge the digital divide, promote inclusivity, and ensure equitable access to broadcasting services for all individuals in the country and absolutely beyond Nigeria terrain.
This paper delves into the inadequate policy framework surrounding broadcasting as a vital institution for national interest and the delivery of information services for public consumption in Nigeria.
The paper highlights the need to address the deficiencies in the current broadcasting policy, considering that contemporary broadcasting policies worldwide have expanded access to information and diverse programming through a range of ownership models, including public service and private commercial broadcasting systems.
Within the context of this paper, a significant development is the emerging concept of broadcasting pluralism, which encompasses various aspects such as diverse ownership and control of broadcasting entities, a wide range of program offerings, and accessibility to these programs within society.
According to sources such as Article 19 (2006:19), WordPress.com weblog (2015), and Coase (2007:31), pluralism primarily revolves around ownership structures and the simultaneous presence of diverse content flowing through various channels for public reception and consumption.
Morisi (2012) further expands on the concept by identifying three dimensions of media pluralism: source pluralism (which entails a variety of media outlets including public, private/commercial, and community broadcasters), content pluralism (encompassing different program formats, demographic diversity, and the expression of diverse ideas and viewpoints), and exposure pluralism (taking into account the fragmented nature of the audience as citizens/consumers).
These aspects of pluralism have the potential to significantly influence policy formulation and regulation, as highlighted by Spigelman (2013:47-49) and other scholars.
Noteworthy is the fact that the above policies applied are meant to avail reasonable universal access to the services of Broadcasting in Nigeria context, which is still in the achieving process.
This paper succinctly examines universal access to services in broadcasting not excluding the patterns of broadcasting pluralism in Nigeria as elucidated above and the models of broadcasting practice that have informed it.
The writer has not failed to observe categorically that the inequality (poverty rate) and (illiteracy) in Nigeria has influenced the universal position of accessibility to these services and are cut out of the same. It concludes by giving a recommendation.
- A Cursory Examination of Historical Background of Broadcasting Systems in Nigeria
The introduction of the BBC Empire service in 1932 marked the initiation of broadcasting in Nigeria. The service, utilizing the radio signal Re-diffusion Service (RDS), aimed to strengthen the economic, political, and cultural ties between Britain and its colonies.
Flowing from the afore, in 1951, the organization transformed into (NBS). Additionally, through Ordinance No. 39 of 1956, the NBS transitioned into the (NBC) in April 1, 1957. The same act also paved the way for NBC’s external service, the Voice of Nigeria, which commenced operations on January 1, 1962.
The Federal Government took further action in 1962 to establish the (NTS), entering into a partnership with the National Broadcasting Company International (NBCI) of the United States to manage it. This initiative followed the enactment of the Wireless Telegraphy Act No. 31 of 1961 (currently known as Cap 469, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990; Osinbajo & Fogam, 1991).
This Act primarily validated the existing regional stations. It allowed both state and federal governments to establish and operate broadcast stations upon obtaining appropriate licenses from the Federal Ministry of Communications.
In furtherance, the existing three regions of Nigeria established their respective TV stations: West (WNTV: 1959), East (ENBS-TV: 1960), and North (RKTV: 1962). In 1979, all regional radio stations merged under the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Betiang 2006, p.1).
Prior to this, the regional TV stations were consolidated to form the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in 1976 (Owuamalam, 2006, p.10).
Additionally, within the period, the ownership, control, and operation of broadcasting in Nigeria were exclusively reserved for various government bodies, including the Federal, Regional, and State governments (Media Rights Agenda, MRA, 2001, p.7).
However, in the advent of 1992, the Deregulation of Broadcasting Decree No. 38 was enacted during General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration. This decree established the current (NBC) and introduced a new pattern of ownership, control, and competition within the broadcast industry.
As a result of this revolution, the number of broadcasting stations in Nigeria increased to 394, from less than 30 prior to deregulation (NBC, 2009, p.2).
Primarily for accessibility, the broadcasting system in Nigeria encompasses the public service and business models, shaping universal availability of information with broadcasting policies and development directions.
Basically, there exist two constitutional frameworks which have influenced the development of Nigerian broadcasting: the McPherson colonial constitution placed broadcasting under the concurrent legislative list, granting administrative jurisdiction to both the federal and regional governments, which pursued autonomy in broadcasting.
Also, the 1979 constitution further facilitated diversification in broadcasting by allowing state ownership of broadcasting stations.
Section 39 (2), subsection (1) of the 1979 constitution states that:
“Every person shall be entitled to own, establish, and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas, and opinions.” Furthermore, subsection (2) stipulates that “no person other than the government of the federation or of a state or any other person or body authorized by the President shall own, establish, or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever.”
The grundnorm of Nigeria sustainability which is the 1999 constitution (as amended,2011) expressly endorsed the previous legislations in section 39(1)(2) with a limitation to its functionality, this will be explained in the subsequent part of this paper.
- Universal Access Agenda: Perspective of Pluralization in Nigeria’s Broadcasting Industry
Numerous scholarly works and analyses have been conducted to examine the pluralization of broadcasting in Nigeria with a focus on accessibility.
This section provides a concise overview of the research, shedding light on the concept of universal access and service in radio and television broadcasting in Nigeria.
According to Moores (2000:12-41), broadcasting in Nigeria can be understood as both an institution and an industry that produces diverse programs as symbolic goods. These programs adhere to specific professional practices to meet societal expectations and establish connections with the state or the market.
The relationship between audiences, who are listeners and viewers of radio and television programs in their daily lives, is also emphasized.
Similarly, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (2010) defines broadcasting as a creative medium that prioritizes professionalism, choice, and innovation to serve the public’s interests. This definition highlights the use of audio or audiovisual technology to simultaneously reach audiences.
Fairchild (cited in Amadi, 1986:20) suggests that organized broadcasting involves the production and transmission of programs by standard stations for public consumption.
These conceptual interpretations demonstrate the vital role of broadcasting in Nigerian society, catering to a geographically dispersed population of 193.3 million people across different states, including thirty-six states, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and 774 local government areas (Chinwe, 2015; Nairaland, 2016; NBS cited in Ukwu, 2017; Adejokun, 2017).
Ajibulu (2013) defines broadcasting in the Nigerian context as a component of modern mass media that transmits signals to anyone equipped with the necessary equipment to receive and consume the programs.
This perspective highlights the significance of the radio frequency spectrum, serving as the electronic highway for transmitting radio and television signals to the public (Osazee-Odia, 2001).
The subsequent discussion delves into the extant regulatory frameworks for the sustainability of national media system, this is critically done with the aim of pointing out the deficiencies in the regulations.
- Extant Regulatory frameworks: Media Laws
Media Law can be described as a set of guidelines and regulations that govern the functioning of communication media, whether they are publicly or privately operated.
It encompasses the penalties imposed on individuals or groups who breach these legal provisions. Sambe and Ikoni argued that media law is responsible for establishing or permitting the creation of media organizations, setting forth guidelines for their operation, defining the boundaries within which they are expected to function, and outlining the penalties imposed on those who violate its provisions.
Freedom of the press has been a very controversial issue in the practice of Media and the law because Press Freedom deals with the freedom of individual in the society.
Due to its significance to both media practitioners and governments, media law is incorporated into the constitutions of nearly every nation, as well as the charters of human rights-based organizations.
The American First Amendment Act of 1970 declares that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of people peacefully to assemble, and petition government for a redress of guidance”. Significantly, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Section 39 (1) states that
“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interferences”.
Subsection (2) of the above section laid a clause that without prejudice to the generality of sub-section, every person shall be entitled to establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information ideas and opinions provided that no person other than the government or person authorize by the president upon fulfilment of conditions laid down by the Act of the National Assembly shall establish broadcasting station…
Meanwhile, section 22emphatically states that the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government.
This section invariably speaks of universal access and service in Broadcasting to throughout Nigeria, by virtues of section 14(2) the Nigeria citizens have politically sovereignty and their representative could be accountable to them through the media as agencies.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impact information and idea though any Media, regardless of frontier” Additionaly, Ndolo, (2006:221), cited in Nwodu, (2006:160), is of a similar opinion when he states that “a press free from government control and the relationship of such a press to the form and stability of government and to economic growth and quality of life”
In furtherance, The Official Secrets Act preaches that the establishment of media laws is driven by the objective of preventing the misuse or abuse of freedom of expression.
According to Elias (1969:42), a document is designated as non-disclosable to the public when its disclosure could jeopardize national security. It is in response to the existence of such classified documents that the concept of an official secrets acts emerged.
- Fundamentality of freedom of information
The freedom of information Act systematically outlines its primary objectives, which include providing public access to records and information, ensuring the protection of public records within the bounds of the public interest, safeguarding personal privacy, shielding public officers who disclose official information without authorization, and establishing procedures to achieve these goals.
Unfortunately, the practical implementation of these purposes has not been successful in Nigeria, and the means of broadcasting, media are restricted from disseminating any forms of information.
This act is manifestly to the effect of advocating free access to information by the citizen of Nigeria, although, mass media are not enabled to do so on behalf of any persons.
- Essence of Broadcasting Pluralization: Accessibility and Universality
A change in the idea of public interest broadcasting can be seen in the growth of broadcasting networks, which include both public service and private / commercial broadcasters. Since free market broadcasting places a strong focus on diversity and social responsibility, it is now widely accepted that public interest broadcasting, which was formerly primarily linked with state-controlled channels, is now a viable option (Cooper, 1982; Napoli, 2001).
Noteworthy is the observant Adaba (1994), who saw the benefits of diversified broadcasting as a platform for creative projects and successful endeavors as well as a proponent of democracy, cultural values, and intellectual emancipation.
As a result, broadcasters now have a new set of obligations to advance the needs of the Nigerian populace. Also, Oketumbi (2007) identifies three crucial elements of this new orientation and refers to them as the benefits of broadcasting liberalization.
First of all, there has been an expansion in the variety and length of content in radio and television broadcasts, enabling more flexible programming and predefined scheduling.
Secondly, there is a greater degree of inventiveness, which enables the creation of creative programs and exciting, hour-long presentations with a range of newscasters and reporters.
- Performance Metrics for Nigeria community Broadcasting: Accessibility Evidence
In accordance with UNESCO (2015), community broadcasting worldwide complements public and private broadcasting stations, offering unique local content programs that serve as crucial markers of development and democracy.
It represents a desirable approach for public policy guidance and regulation. Ojomo, Olusegun et al. (2015) define community radio as a station established and operated by a specific community to advance, promote, and protect the community’s common interests and objectives. Stuart and Chotia (2012) emphasize the vital role of community radio in the broadcasting landscape, providing localized information and enabling advertisers to target specific audiences in their own language.
Additionally, it facilitates community participation in local events and helps radio personalities become influential figures within the community.
The NBC has contributed to some degree to universal access and service to Broadcasting within Nigeria, it community broadcasting occupies the third tier of the country’s broadcasting framework and serves as a grassroots medium for delivering information to community members (NBC code, Section 9.0.1). Moreover, according to Section 9.0.2 of the NBC code, community broadcasters are required to be members of the community, residing among the people and possessing an understanding of the community’s language, culture, values, and norms.
It was categorically mandated in the code that community broadcasters should utilize broadcasting as a means to instill community development virtues, empower the people, and encourage effective participation through sensitization strategies and mobilization efforts.
Ojomo, Olusegun et al. (2015) emphasize that community radio’s essence lies in access and participation, volunteerism, independence, localism, and diversity.
It was further highlighted that the purpose of community radio as nurturing community life, stating that community broadcasters are craftsmen and artists who create meaningful audio images, driven by their passion for the medium and their belief in the transformative power of community broadcasting in people’s lives and livelihoods.
Be that as it may, significant member of the Nigeria community still does not have access to the information let alone of the international community because some media platforms have failed to embrace the progressive tides of technology.
- The objective of promoting audience diversity and expanding program exposure
In order to assess how well broadcasting stations are performing and how well their programs are being received, the idea of audience diversity is becoming more and more important.
According to Webster (2005; Webster and Ksiazek, 2012), the diversity and fragmentation of audiences across different stations are significantly impacted by the varied broadcasting systems, which in turn affects their program preferences and consumption habits.
According to Spigelman (2013:47-49), audiences can be seen as both citizens and consumers of public service media, with the availability of multiple media outlets such as radio and television broadcasting stations providing exposure to a variety of programs and programming schedules for audiences to choose from.
In Nigeria contest, audience polarization existed prior to the democratization of the broadcasting system, which consists of a mix of public, private, and community broadcasting stations.
These sectors are influenced by audience fragmentation, as audiences have diverse tastes and preferences when it comes to the programs and programming schedules offered by different broadcasting stations (as mentioned on page 8 regarding the number of broadcasting stations nationwide).
Interestingly, in their 2010 comparison of the programming offerings of public (Nigerian Television Authority NTA) and private (African Independent Television AIT, Silverbird Television STV) broadcasting stations, Obono and Madu found that each station broadcast a wide variety of shows on a regular 24-hour schedule over a period of 274 days.
They discovered that NTA broadcast 113 shows, AIT broadcast 91 shows, and STV broadcast 118 shows. With 85 percent of the programs being locally produced and representing indigenous perspectives, these variances show the pluralization and fragmentation of programs, giving audiences access to a wide range of options, but not all will contribute.
The survey also shows competition between shows and between show genres, giving viewers a choice between public and private stations. For instance, NTA prioritizes educational and business-oriented programming as opposed to AIT and STV, which favor entertainment-focused programming geared at the target audience.
As a privately owned broadcaster, AIT seems to place more value on political dialogue and the right to debate and critically assess matters of public concern.
Particularly among young people, who have a stronger preference for entertainment programming, there is evidence of audience polarization (Webster, 2005; Webster and Ksiazek, 2011). Meanwhile, according to Lievrouw (2001), audiences have always been picky, looking for information and entertainment sources that fit their unique requirements and interests, it is assertively submitted that, the metrics is working a significant percentage of the community in Nigeria do not have access to it.
Top of Form
- Comparative Analysis on Broadcasting Regulation Strategies
Before delving into the approaches to broadcast regulation in Nigeria, reference must be made to the approaches in Britain and USA.
The reason being that Nigeria is a former British colony and currently practices the presidential system of government after the United States pattern.
In Britain, after series of radical changes in the policies, the Independent Television Commission, ITC, was established under a Broadcasting Act of 1990 to enhance free programming as it replaced the old Independent Broadcasting Authority.
According to Harvey (1999, p.7) the act charged ITC to ensure “that television services are of high quality and offer a wide range of programs calculated to appeal to variety of tastes and interest.
In USA, the broadcasting regulation is rooted in the First Amendment of the American Constitution “that congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press” (Pember; 2004, p.294).
The regulation in the US is handled by the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, which is charged with the implementations of Fairness Doctrine. FCC gave licenses but did not make specific provisions.
In Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, is solely in charge of broadcasting regulation. The body was established by Decree 38 of 1992 that was later amended by the National Broadcasting Commission (Amendment) Decree No 55 of 1999 under the administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar (MRA, 2001, p.10).
It should be noted that the state monopoly of broadcasting ended with the promulgation of the deregulation decree.
Hence, private concerns started operating radio and television stations. Also, foreign investors were allowed “to participate, for the first time in the establishment, ownership and operation of broadcasting; something which had been prohibited under the system imposed by the Wireless Telegraphy Act” (MRA; 2001, p.10).
Just as USA’s broadcasting regulation borrowed from its constitutional provision, Nigeria’s 1999 constitution provided for something just opposite to that of America.
Thus, the regulation in Nigeria is fashioned to uphold what the lawmakers intended – supposed protection of the interest of the nation.
For emphasis, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (1999, p.22-23) provides for the Right to freedom of expression and the press. Section 39-(1) provides: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
It goes further in subsection two, to give conditions for ownership of broadcast outfits which include a required authorization by the government or its agency.
Further, subsection three states: “Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society” The provisions are explicit.
First, the freedom of expression is granted in subsection one, then subsection two gives the conditions for exhibiting the freedom and finally, subsection three politely withdraws the freedom.
The implication is that, the government and its agencies (in this case, NBC) will grant licences for broadcasting stations to anybody that satisfies their bidding. It also shows that acquiring the licences does not give the stations the right to air their opinions or what they think will be in the interest of the society.
Rather, the provision is fashioned in such a way that the bidding of the ruling class would always be observed by the stations. That is the reason behind the provisions of subsection three
Conclusion and Recommendations
In summary, radio and television broadcasting in Nigeria that is available to all people is essential for advancing inclusion, information sharing, and societal advancement.
The governmental, private, and community broadcasting sectors make up Nigeria’s broadcasting landscape, and each one helps to achieve the country’s goal of ensuring widespread access to broadcasting services.
Broadcasting services is being made available to the community, including remote and underdeveloped places. In an effort to close the digital gap and address discrepancies in access to information and media, a number of rules and regulations have been put in place to encourage universal access and service.
Local content programs are produced through community broadcasting, reflecting the culture, values, and interests of particular communities. This promotes local engagement, fosters community development, and gives people more authority within their particular circumstances.
Additionally, new opportunities for enhancing access and services have emerged as a result of the convergence of technology and broadcasting. Online streaming and digital broadcasting platforms have the ability to reach a larger audience and offer a variety of content selections.
However, Nigeria still faces obstacles in ensuring service and access for all. Equal access for all residents is hampered by infrastructure constraints, affordability concerns, and regulatory complications.
It is recommended that infrastructure needs to be improved, affordability needs to be promoted, and a regulatory framework that supports investment and innovation needs to be fostered.
For the Nigerian public to be informed, educated, and entertained, there must be widespread access to and service in radio and television broadcasting. Nigeria may evolve toward a more egalitarian and connected society by eliminating access restrictions, embracing technology advancements, and building an inclusive broadcasting environment.
About the Author
Kehinde Emmanuel Oladele possesses multiple roles and talents. He is an author, a dynamic undergraduate law student, and a skilled writer with proficient research abilities. He has a notable collection of publications both nationally and internationally, demonstrating his dedication to making substantial contributions to jurisprudence as a whole. His authored book was titled “DEMYSTIFYING NIGERIA LAWS ON CONTEMPORARY SOCIO LEGAL ISSUES,” published by Eliva Press. The book can be accessed at: https://www.elivapress.com/en/book/book-7628589326/.
Kehinde Emmanuel Oladele has acquired a wealth of experience through his legal internships at I.H Adigun & Co (Oyo state), S.U Lawal & Co (Kaduna State), and his ongoing internship at the office of the vice chairman of the Body of Benchers: Awomolo & Associates in Abuja. He can be reached via email at oladelekehindeemm[email protected] or through the phone number +234 7033702316.
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