DAAR Communications Plc, owners of AIT and RayPower, said they have paid a fine of N1.5 million imposed on it by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
The company’s Group Managing Director, Tony Akiotu, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday in Abuja.
The NBC had on July 9 fined the media organisation N1 million for “exceeding the allowed band occupancy limit” originally granted to RayPower.
In the letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the NBC said after carrying out a random spectrum scan on the FM band, the station transmitting on 100.5MHz, occupied 100.3MHz – 100.6MHz indicating a 300KHz band occupancy which exceeded the 150KHz band occupancy limit allowed for FM Radio stations.
In a separate letter dated July 24, the NBC sanctioned the organisation’s programme, Political Platform, accusing its anchors of making “provocative, inflammatory and decisive” comments.
In the letter, the NBC made reference to the programme’s episode of Tuesday, July 24 which it said was marked by “sensational and heated expression of opinion” by its anchors.
The commission went ahead to fine DAAR Communications N500,000 for alleged breach of broadcast code by the anchors of the programme.
While stating the position and reaction of the broadcast company, Mr Akiotu said the Commission, under the present leadership, is determined to “intimidate, undermine” and ultimately, programmed to muzzle the constitutional rights guaranteeing the freedom of speech.
Regarding the first sanction of exceeding the allowed band occupancy limit, Mr Akiotu explained that his organisation broke no rule as the radio station had been operating within the limit given to them.
He made reference to a letter dated February 10,1999 which gives the radio station transmission frequency from 100.410 MHz to 100.590MHz and an operating Frequency of 100.5MHZ.
“We wish to state that possibly due to some ulterior motives calculated at a deterministic agenda, the Commission hurriedly without recourse to its records, to verify certain facts, did not also know that vide a letter reference No. NBC/11/s.26/Vol 1.259 dated February 10, 1999; signed by Mr. Bright E. Igbako, DAAR Communications Limited (as it then was) was issued a frequency Assignment to Raypower FM radio Relay station in Abuja, letter for Transmission Boundary of 100.410 MHz to 100.590MHz and an operating Frequency of 100.5MHZ.
“Without any prior correspondence on this same subject matter, surprisingly from the blues, in the earlier letter under reference the Commission in its own wisdom asserted a case of breach against us with a fine of N1,000,000.00 (One Million Nalra) with a further threat that “the Commission would not hesitate to apply higher sanctions including revocation of licence and shutting down of the broadcast station, if the breaches persist,” he said.
Reacting to the second letter from the NBC, Mr Akiotu said what the Commission did not state was that there havr been several consultations and engagements on the programme and its vibrancy, popularity amongst the generality of its audiences, the depths of the analysis and the thought-provoking views that are most patriotically expressed meant for the deepening of democratic culture and ethos as a nation.
“Severally we have been invited to the Commission to either drop some presenters or decimate/tone down the vibrancy of the programme.
“At various times, through overtures from the Commission, we have been requested to navigate the course of the discourse on the programme to desperately support the sitting government at all cost irrespective of the glaring security challenges, killings and the pervading sociopolitical and economic dislocations that abound in the country which are daily expressed through the mails from the citizenry and the analysts.
“Succinctly put, we have been intimidated, threatened and every attempt made to muzzle and stifle our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression,” he said.
He further said the company’s stations in several states have been vandalised but it decided to maintain a dignified silence in spite of all the provocation. He also said the Commission through its several correspondence to the security agencies revealed that they feared “media war” targeted at the Presidency.
Mr Akiotu said DAAR Communications Plc has always fulfilled its financial obligations which is not only too high but also is uneconomic.
“In view of the very tight economic situation in the country, DAAR Communications Plc made an offer to pay the licence fees in monthly instalments based on the 2010/2015 rates. This was again outrightly rejected. Yet the Commission continues to blackmail DAAR Communications Plc, alleging a refusal to pay its licence fees.
“We make bold to state that it is not only DAAR Communications Plc that is allegedly owing the NBC licence fees for the period 2016/2021 therefore, it is indeed blackmail and name calling in a bid to embarrass, discredit and hang the station.
“The NBC is indeed determined to achieve a purpose which is out rightly at variance with the provisions of the code but an agenda meant to shut down our stations considering the recent spate of fines, media persecution and the rather embarrassing developments.
“As a responsible corporate citizen and licensee, we have paid the fines of N500,000.00 and N1,000,000.00 respectively which to all intent and purposes are unjust, unfair and an assault on us; and we hereby request that after due diligence by the appropriate officers of the commission and the institution of the state, it will eventually be discovered that we were indeed unjustly fined and the most honourable thing is to appropriately effect the necessary refund and restitution,” he said.
The GMD also stated that DAAR Cmommunications does not bear any hatred for any government and is not affiliated with, or an appendage of any institution, political interest or group of persons.
When asked why the company decided to pay the fine despite claims that it has not violated any rules, the GMD said they decided to pay before complain “and to show that we are law-abiding citizens.”
When asked to confirm the payment, the NBC Spokesperson, Ekanem Antia, said he would find out.