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Editors Send SOS to FG: Urgent Help Needed in Nigerian Media


IF THERE there had been a forum that aptly captured the state of Nigeria's economy and the near helpless state of anxiety in the country's mass media sector, it was the 19th Annual Nigerian Editors Convention (ANEC) organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Tuesday, November 14 through Saturday, November 18 and hosted by Gov. Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State in Uyo.

The five-day event which attracted the participation of almost 300 chief executive officers and editors of mass media firms in Nigeria as well as the host governor and some of his officials, discoursed several areas where the quakes in the country's economy deal devastating blows on the media sector.

 It also appraised how the maladies in governance, general elections and insecurity hinder socio-economic growth and citizens' access to democratic dividends.

It was a formidable rally of erudite, elite mass media helmsmen who utilised the opportunity well, to make a May-day call to the federal government to rescue their heavily challenged industry.

Rising from the discourses which featured several speakers with front row positions in the economy; security; electoral systems management; media administration and enterprenureship, participants called for urgent government policies and industrial measures to arrest the fast decline of fortunes of operators in the sector, check growing insecurity and advance the economy.

The communique released on Monday, November 20, after incisive deliberations, with the signatures of NGE President, Eze Anaba and the General Secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren on it, noted the crucial roles played by the media in deepening democracy and economic growth as well as government's inallenable responsibility to ensure sustainability of the media for the good of society.

Among other issues, the editors highlighted the high cost of procurement of materials for mass media operations amid such contributing factors  as rise in import duties for equipment; harsh anti-media policies; radical drop of income from advertisement and audience subscriptions; as well as the immense threat of globally powerful big tech IT firms like Google, Facebook, X, Yahoo and others who have taken over the Nigerian media marketing space and  sent SOS to the federal government.

They resolved on a clarion that government should act fast to save the Nigerian media from the asphyxiating monopoly of the big techs and the heavy encumbrance of trade-related policies. The communique directed FG to look at what some countries had earlier done to rescue some revenue for their local media from some of the global IT big players or at least, do smart bargains in favour of the industry.

"The bargaining code", the  communique stated, "allows publishers to collectively bargain without violating antitrust laws; requires tech platforms to negotiate with publishers for the use of news snippets; also requires them to pay licensing fees to publishers; and taxes digital advertising and uses the revenue to subsidise news outlets.

"The EU, US, Canada, India, Brazil, Australia and others have since adopted their own media bargaining code through various Acts to compel big tech to pay for news they don’t produce but use and sell; it is gaining momentum, and has been gaining global support since Australia took the bull by the horns."

NGE's ANEC 2023, chaired by the octogenarian publisher of 'Vanguard' newspaper, Chief Sam Amuka Pemu with the 84-year-old journalist and former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Segun Osoba among other dignitaries, in attendance featured paper presentations on the theme: 'Stimulating Economic Growth, Technological Advancement: Role of the Media'. Using the thrust as canopy, NGE President, Mr. Anaba said the larger goal was to "examine Nigerian media sustainability and the existential threat by Big Tech and what we need to do in the face of the new reality... and proffer solutions that hopefully will enhance its robust practice in the country."

 After days of presentations from a broad spectrum of speakers, comprising the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; Minister of Finance, Wale Edun; Dr. Muda Yusuf; Azu Ishiekwene; Richard Akinola; Samson Itodo; Dr. Chima M. Amadi; in Ibom Hotel and Resort, the need for urgent actions to arrest the slide in the media industry as well as the nation's economy, democracy, electoral and systems were vividly evident.

Among the areas where immediate action was requested was at the agency in charge of broadcasting regulation.

Excerpt from the NGE 19th ANEC communique: "The National Broadcasting Commission, as statutorily constituted in Nigeria, is not an independent body like its counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom.

 The National Assembly should amend the NBC Act to make it an autonomous body that will report solely to the National Assembly, and not the Minister of Information.

"Such independence of operation, devoid of arbitrary government intervention, will create a better sense of professionalism in the industry."

 At the convention, NGE garlanded 15 new fellows. The new Fellows of Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE), whose investiture held in Akwa Ibom State's Government House on Thursday, November 16, were Martins Oloja, the managing director and Editor-in-chief (MD/EiC) of The Guardian Newspaper; Yusuf Ali, MD/EiC The Nation; Imoni Amarere MD AIT/Ray Power Academy; Ambrose Okoh Controller of Programs, Channels TV; Hajia Maimuna Garba general manager (GM) Multi-Channels; Tunji Bello fomer Secretary to State Government, Lagos State; Celestine Ogolo former Editor, The Tide newspaper; Austeen Elewodalu, Director, News, Voice of Nigeria; Mustapha Isah, former President, NGE; Chuka Nnabuife, MD/CEO Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (National Light group of newspapers); Samuel Egbala Egbe, Permanent Secretary; Ministry of Information, Cross River State; Victor Chuma Agusiobo, former Editor, National Light; Sani Mohammed Sulieman, former Director, News, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; Chuks Ugwoke, former Editor, Saturday Vanguard and ex-commissioner for Information, Enugu State; and Paul Bassey, former MD/EiC Today Sports.

39 editors were newly inducted into NGE during the convention.


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