- The Nigerian government has announced a review of its national mass communication policy; a document which also set the guidelines for the national media sector. A committee of government officials and sector representatives is to review the current policy, which was approved of during the military dictatorship.
Nigerian Minister of Information and National Orientation, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu, in Abuja inaugurated the core working committee on the review of the mass communication policy. The Minister said that "the challenges, which a new information policy poses to Nigeria are without doubt diverse, distinct and unmistakable."
Membership of the committee was drawn from the information sector - including the media - but also from government officials. Chief Ayo Ogunlade was named the Chairman of the committee. Mr Ogunlade is a former Information Minister during the 1976-79 military regime, promised on behalf of other members, to ensure that the task is accomplished successfully.
Minister Chikelu, while expressing delight that the distinguished members took time out of their busy schedule to respond to this national call, said there was no doubt that "the composition of the working group is not only based on merit but also on the past performances and dedication of the distinguished men and women to the promotion of mass communication in the country."
The Minister recalled that Nigeria's current mass communication policy was a product of a seminar in Badagry in February 1987. At that time - during the military dictatorship - the seminar was called into action by the Ministry of Information and Culture and was assisted by the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) and some eminent Nigerian mass communicators.
The current policy document finally emerged after twelve sessions and several government amendments in 1990. According to Minister Chikelu, this policy "set the momentum for the evolution of rational and systemic packaging of all communication media and resources for the attainment of defined national goals."
The review of the policy document had however become imperative "because of the dynamism in global information management and the need to evolve an enduring National Mass Communication Policy that befits the country's status as a virile international player and an emergent regional power," the Minister further said.
Mr Chikelu also hoped that the work of the committee would assist both public and private sector organisations towards "becoming productive, citizen- friendly and technology-driven."
The mass communication policy has a decisive influence on how the Nigerian media sector is organised. National regulatory bodies, such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), are obliged to implement this policy. The current policy for example obliges the NBC to monitor the Nigerian broadcasting industry regarding ethical standards.
While this policy establishes the "operational boundary for the entire media industry," it nevertheless is most important as a guideline document for the government's information workers and its own media. The current version aims at promoting a "national ideology, where existent" and to promote and consolidate the nation-building process by developing "an authentic Nigerian culture."
This also includes guidelines for the operation of privately owned Nigerian print media. According to the current mass communication policy, print media for example "shall be used as a vehicle for national mobilisation in support of policies and programmed aimed at improving the standard of living of Nigerians." Further, they "shall champion and enhance the positive aspect of our national values, image, corporate unity and stability."
The current mass communication policy also provides for regulation of media ownership. While it opens up for both government and private ownership of the media, it outlines the need for legislation hindering a monopoly situation. This is explained by the need to "prevent the misuse of the print media by a few rich or powerful individuals or group of Nigerians."
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