Opinion: Corporate Governance Imperatives for Government Broadcasters, By AbdulWarees Solanke

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Towards the end of 2017, the Federal Government of Nigeria released the names of chairmen and members of boards of various parastatals that did not yet have a constituted board since 2015 when the new government was inaugurated. These federal news organizations include the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Voice of Nigeria (VON) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (NAN) under the Federal Ministry of Information.

Advertisements

For these board appointees to appreciate the gravity of their assignment, it is imperative to interrogate the enthronement of corporate governance in their operations and learn from the best practices in other nations whose public broadcasters are success stories of impacting positively on the citizenry through the commitment and ingenuity of their governors, directors and managers.

Advertisements

The role of the board of directors of any public or corporate institution is to protect the public, corporate or shareholders interest. This is the motive or instrumentality of corporate governance mechanism. Corporate Governance is about transparency and accountability in the operations and decision making process of an organization.

Advertisements


It guarantees stability and sustainability and instills discipline and adherence to principles and commitment to best practices among its leadership and management. It provides the framework for measuring and strengthening performance of all operatives.  In this instance, the board and its members become the custodians or the guardians of the corporation.

As its soul, although not usually visible,these men and women who constitute the board are always carefully chosen to ensure that only people of integrity who can give direction or who epitomize the vision and mission of the corporation are brought on board.Approximating the essence of the corporation to which they are appointed, they serve as the strategic lever of control on the board of management, which are the executive managers responsible for the day to day management of the operations of the corporation.

Corporate Governance is to ensure that the visible executives, the management do not miss their path while they are busy with the difficult task of running the corporation’s affairs. The board of governors or directors is the perfect instrument of monitoring and evaluating corporate performance. Not being full time appointees but coming from different backgrounds with varied experiences and representing diverse interests, they periodically meet to evaluate the progress of the corporation and set its policies and direction for implementation or execution by the board of management. They ensure that the executive managers stay faithful or are in fidelity to the ideals, vision and mission of the corporation.

State, national or international broadcasters fall into the category of public institutions that must have robust corporate governance mechanism or structure to assure certain altruistic deliverables that will justify their public essence or public service institution. These values are comprehensively highlighted in Public Service Broadcasting: A Best Practices Sourcebook, a 2005 seminal publication of the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC),edited by Dr. Indrajit Banerjee and Kalinga Seneviratne.

The deliverables or values include editorial independence, universality, distinctiveness, diversity, unbiased information, education/enlightenment, knowledge, social cohesion, citizenship, accountability and credibility. Of cause, these values of cultural integration, national orientation and patriotism, voice for the minority, respect for diversity and inclusiveness, social and political mobilization and stimulation of economic productivity and development through their broadcast contents are strategic in nature.

It is therefore the function of the board of directors of broadcasters to ensure that the operational managers do not derail in their processes and content and are not frivolous in the utilization of state or public resources that are appropriated to them.

So, what is the character of board of directors of public broadcasters and personality of members that must perform these onerous task of providing leadership and vision for the corporations they are appointed? The appointment of the board and the visionary function of its members are guided by charters or acts establishing the corporation and upon which board and management performance in terms of the public value they deliver or how they meet audience expectations are measured.

It is in the quality of men and women that are tapped, whether by direct appointment based on individual merit following a rigorous and competitive recruitment process, or by emergence through election at an annual general meeting or even validation of presidential appointment by the parliament. In a nutshell, the consideration for board appointment into a public service broadcaster or media are based on diversity, public interest, experience, professionalism and expertise, intellect, influence and integrity.

This is all the gist of board appointment and corporate governance and those who get appointed into the board of a public service broadcast are to represent public interest, prevent abuse and protect public trust as contained in the broadcasting mandates of the corporation.

In the UNESCO publication, Banerjee and Seneviratne acknowledged that structures governing PSB vary considerably between nations. Their reference of the composition of the BBC board of governors is quite revealing and exemplary:

In the United Kingdom, the BBC has been constituted as a largely autonomous legal entity with a Board of Governors appointed under the Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister of the day. The Governors are drawn from persons who have distinguished themselves in industry, public service, the arts, and so on. Care is taken to ensure that those appointed reflect the increasingly diverse nature of the British Population. The Royal Charter requires one Governor to be appointed from each of the countries constituting the United Kingdom, viz. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Director-General is appointed by the Board of Governors and is, in practice, allowed complete freedom over programming and editorial matters. Governors have a fixed five-year term, unless they resign earlier, or are removed after being declared bankrupt, after acquiring interests which conflict with their duties as Governors, suffer from a mental disorder, or absent themselves from meetings for longer than three months without prior consent. Governors may also be removed by Royal Prerogative, though this power has hardly ever been used.

Somehow, Nigeria draws extensively from the UK practice which for instance is reflected in how the board of Voice of Nigeria is composed. The act establishing Voice of Nigeria stipulated relatively similar criteria for membership and composition of the corporation as follows:

The Corporation shall consist of the following members to be appointed by the
President, on the recommendation of the Minister, that is-

(a)       A Chairman;

(b)       The Director-General of the Corporation;

        (c)        One representative of the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation;

(d)       One representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

(e)        One person to represent interest not otherwise represented on the Corporation;

(f)         One person with requisite knowledge in Nigerian Art and Culture and;

(g)       Three persons with requisite experience in-

(I) the mass media;

(ii) Financial matters; and

(iii) Engineering.

In interrogating the new appointments into the board of these Nigerian public media, one finds on the part of the government, a sensitivity to corporate governance. For instance Nigeria’s wire service, the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN has one of its former Editors-in-Chief, Wada Maida appointed as the chairman  board of directors which already has the agency’s Managing Director, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, a core media manager who has had distinguished career as editor and editor in chief of professional news magazines as automatic board member.

For VON, the following are the eminent men who were carefully tapped to constitute its board of directors: Mallam Ibrahim Buba (Chairman), Mr. Femi Sowoolu, Chief Dele Okeya, Mr. Barth Ugwoke, Bashir Maina Dungus and Yau Abdullah in additionto the Director-General, Mr. Osita Okechukwu who has been driving the corporation since 2016 when he was appointed. The selection or composition of this calibre of men reveals diversity, professionalism and public interest. The Nigerian Television Authority already has it board in place, just as the Federal Radio Corporation is functioning with its own board.

Today, Nigerian public broadcasting managers are under pressure of funding and sustainability, intense competition from operators of commercial and private radio and television channels just as the globalization of mass media is encouraging the powerful foreign channels to undermine the acceptability of the local public media.

So, it cannot be a tea party for the chairmen and board members of the identified Nigerian public service broadcasters who have to draw from their wide experiences to cope with the dynamism and challenges of a sector whose performance cannot be measured by a clear economic bottom line but the extent to which they produce public value qualitatively in galvanizing pride of identity and national cohesion among Nigerians or inspiring respect and prestige for the country, promoting her authentic values in the larger international community or serving as a soft power asset to push the Nigerian and African viewpoint.

The question every stakeholder and observer could be asking is what new, remarkable things these board members have being able to bring to revolutionize the operations of the media corporations? What value-added will they be offering to change public perception of public and state broadcasters as a drain pipe and ineffective institutions? It is a test of their capacity and capabilities to think outside the box in confronting the dominance of foreign broadcasters that have penetrated our cultural domain and the powerful commercial broadcasters that are profit-driven, mindless of our context and peculiarities as Africans or Nigerians.

Therefore, the success of members of these boards of directors depends on their understanding of the vision and mission of the national public service broadcasters to which they are to superintend, their structure and system, the services they provide and the challenges they contend with. They must also understand the global best practices in public broadcasting, tap into the experiences of other national broadcasters and establish linkages and partnerships with their peers abroad.

Public Service Broadcasting brings to any nation intrinsic public value, not necessarily the bottom-line of cents and dollars because of the nature of the free-riding public good and services they provide although its board and management must devise ways and means of generating income outside the envelopes from the government.

More significantly, members of the board and management of these public broadcasters must appreciate the significance of corporate governance for corporate success or attainment of corporate vision.

The board is not a battle ground of private, competing and pecuniary interests but a forum for aggregating the best ideas, offering solutions and charting a clear path for the broadcaster in the interest of the nation through the radio and television services their stations provide under their charge as executive or non-executive directors.

Hopefully, they will make a tremendous impact in the fortunes of these national broadcasters by the quality of their engagements with relevant stakeholders within and outside government. Hopefully too, they will leverage on opportunities offered by membership of the Public Media Alliance {PMA), formerly the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), one institution that exists for strategic leaders and managers of public broadcasters to share knowledge and experiences as peers in the broadcasting industry.

This is the primary platform they must immediately link up with to lead them into the world of Public Broadcasters operating on strong corporate governance tradition. Many Nigerian public broadcasters are already members of this alliance.

*AbdulWarees Solanke is Assistant Director, Strategic Planning & Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria,Ikoyi, Lagos                                                            korewarith@yahoo.com,                                                                                                                        08090585723

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *