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Regulation of obscene publications by the NBC

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Are we ever gonna be able to watch porn directly on TV? Couple years ago, a lady's ankles could not be seen. Now we've normalized cleavages, deep kisses and steamy scenes. Are we nearing the age of outright porn on NTA? Let's see what the big men at NBC gotta say.

You were hoping to see a picture of a man and woman getting naughty right? Hope those bugs turned you off. Now read with a clear head. This is serious business.

So...not many concepts spark as much controversy as the concepts of obscenity and public morality. But what is Obscenity?

Obscenity is what?

“Once, the Geneva Conference on the Suppression of the Circulation or Traffic in Obscene Publications attempted to define obscenity. After so many failed attempts, they thought it best to leave us without a standard definition.”

The truth is, obscenity is not exactly the easiest word to define. However, for the sake of today's discussion; let us simply state that obscenity is usually used in relation to things that are extremely offensive mostly in relation to sexuality.

Public Morality? Picture this.

Public morality on the other hand can be said to be what is considered acceptable in a particular society. It is usually serves as the basis for the enactment of laws. The yardstick for determining what is obscene and against public morality is mostly dependent on the society.

Picture this:

Not this picture, bro. That's just something to get you excited, but not too excited. Focus!

Okay picture this; In 1894, Carmencita; a short film of a woman dancing, was banned because it was perceived to be obscene. This was so, particularly in light of complaints that the dress she wore was a little shorter than what was acceptable as it showed her ankles. Sounds weird, right? Well it wasn’t. Not in the American Society of the 1890s.

Frankly, a lot has changed since then. However, culture and societal norms still play a major role determining what is obscene or offensive to public morality

Let’s take a look at how this works in Nigerian society. A good illustration of this can be seen in the controversy that has surrounded the Big Brother Naija show since its inception.

Big Brother

The Big Brother show is not primarily a Nigerian show. It originated from The Netherlands in 1999. It has since circulated around the world while recording tremendous success”

The purpose of the show is to capture the everyday life of persons (housemates) in the Big Brother House. The Housemates get to complete various tasks and interact with one another while entertaining the audience

How realistic can a reality TV show like Big Brother Naija be in a largely Conservative society like Nigeria? While recently commenting on the 5th Season of the reality show in Nigeria; Ebuka gave reasons why Nigerians could not get explicit content as provided in other jurisdictions. He made reference to the Nigeria Media Regulation and the role of the National Broadcasting Commission as it relates to the exclusion of socially unacceptable content.

NBC na your mate?

This comment brings to light the rules guiding the Nigerian Media as well as the laws that exist for this purpose. The Nigerian Media is regulated by a number of statutory provisions including the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act.

The Constitution sets the tone for the regulation of the media in Section 39 which draws the line in relation to freedom of expression by allowing laws that can be termed reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to be enacted for regulating the broadcast media.

Drawing from this, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act regulates the activities of the medium for information dissemination such as radio, television, satellite TV. Section 1 of the Act also establishes what is known as the National Broadcasting Commission and empowers this commission to regulate and control the broadcast industry.

The National Broadcasting Commission is the sole agency responsible for regulating Broadcasting in Nigeria. It controls everything media related from licensing to monitoring of content as well as sanctioning of stations that refuse to comply with laid down regulations

Getting interesting?

Certain contents are also expressly prohibited from being broadcast by the Nigerian Media on the grounds of such content being contrary to public morality.

For instance; the broadcast of obscene articles is criminalised in the Criminal Code under Section 233D. It is punishable by a" fine not exceeding four hundred Naira or by Imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or by both."

Section 233B of the Criminal Code interpretes an obscene article as "anything capable of being or likely to be looked at and read or looked at or read".

Similarly, the Obscene Publication Act of 1961 identifies what qualifies as obscenity while placing emphasis on the effect such material will have on persons coming in contact with it.

Smoking, sex scenes, all that...

An article qualifies as obscene if it, in the evaluation of an ordinary person appellant to prurient interest by depicting or describing sexual content in an offensive manner and lacks any major value in relation to literature, art, science or politics .Obscenity can be in form of sex scenes; drug abuse, smoking and vulgar abuse among others.

The Laws regulating the Media in Nigeria are aimed at maintaining a standard of morality and ensuring that the society is protected from unwholesome content. It is therefore the duty of the media to produce content compatible with public morality while still exercising their right to freedom of expression.

"And so what?"

In spite of these regulations; many unacceptable content is broadcast in the Nigerian Mass Media especially since the internet has made it difficult if not impossible to control the content that makes its way into the Nigerian society.

Many religious and social groups have blamed the moral decadence among Nigerian youths on the obscene content being broadcast in the media and have called on the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to ban shows such as Big Brother Naija which promote unacceptable behavioural patterns such as smoking, cussing, swearing as well as inappropriate relations between the opposite sex.

Big Brother Naija still remains extremely popular among Nigerian youths. Although there are no definite figures; the show was declared the most watched live Entertainment on Showmax in 2020. Similarly; it is one of the most popular and trending subjects in both online and offline conversations among Nigerian youths.

What do you think?

Yours truly,




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