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Nigeria: Daar faces problems of burnt down studio and licensing issues

Just as many companies were taking stock of activities of 2009 and planning how to tackle 2010, Daar was battling a plethora of problems that made the festive season look obscure. On December 30, 2009 it was in court hoping for a favourable verdict from the Abuja High court, against the reported plan of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to revoke its network licence.

The broadcaster said it had instituted the case to forestall the actions of NBC and the Ministry which if allowed, could threaten its activities and plans of remaining a strong news link for so many people living in both urban and rural areas of the country.

Although Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in answering the prayers by Daar as presented by its lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, ordered the defendants - the NBC, the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney-General of the Federation to suspend all actions seeking the revocation, suspension or cancellation of the existing licence of the company pending the determination and hearing of the motion on notice, Daar's problems were yet to be over. On December 31, the broadcaster's Lagos station had a visitation of fire which left an extensive damage. For the company, these were coincidences too many.

Whether the incidences were end of year gifts or wedding gift to the Chairman of the station whose daughter was doing her traditional wedding the following day, the truth is that the station would take some time to recover with the devastation following the disaster. The fire, according to a close Daar sources, razed about two master control rooms which are basically the National and International Master Control rooms, three new studios and the Dome which was used for audience interactive programmes. The dome, according to the broadcaster, was the first of such projects initiated in the country by a private broadcaster.

Although the cause of the fire outbreak is yet to be determined, apart from initial conjectures attributing it to an electric fault, eye witness account told Hi-Tech that about just a few seconds after the fire started, four explosions went off in different sides of the building almost at the same time, making the fire uncontrollable. Perhaps, this could be the reason information has it that the bomb disposal unit of the Police is taking some more interest in the end of year bizarre incident.

Meanwhile, the organisation is not new to such incidences. Sometime in 2002, the Daar Stations at the Labour House Abuja was completely razed down by fire. Although no life was lost in the incidence, the company cried that not a pin was removed. Also in 2006, an explosion rocked one of the transmitters at the Lagos office, causing a major damage that knocked out the station for some time. Although the cause was never established the general conclusion was that it was an inside job.

Again in 2007, the Agenebode country home of Chairman of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi was also burnt. Although different commentators at that time attributed it to the roles he and his news outfits played in the scuttling of the alleged third term ambition of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, the fact remains that in each of these incidences, there is never any conclusive or established cause.

However, while Daar communications could be nursing some bruises, the Nigerian broadcast sector is actually the victim in all the bizarre incidences. Clearly, independent broadcast organisations like Daar communications and a couple of others which sprang up to challenge the hegemony of the state owned broadcast outfits have revitalized information dissemination and make broadcasting in the country a beaut. But Broadcasting is still not where it should be. The United States of America, went digital broadcasting in June 12 2009 and since then the wave have been sweeping across the world as digital broadcasting opens a new chapter in world news dissemination.

Now, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in the switch over to digital broadcasting if the nation does not want to become a dumping ground for analogue equipment from other countries. Interestingly, it is the private broadcasting organisations that are expected to champion the cause since the history of government owned organis-ations portray so many bottlenecks before any reasonable policy picks up.

Going back to the basis to purchase equipments already acquired but damaged by controversial disasters may put a hole in any private broadcaster's pocket, and can also drop the fast growth of the broadcast sector. Perhaps, these are reasons why funny incidences like those befalling Daar, should be seriously investigated and concluded to give the country's broadcast image the world compliant status it deserves. Vanguard 10th January 2010

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