By Seun Apara (


So, let’s put the records straight once and for all. What offence has the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) committed by banning Nigerian songs released even after a year? Are the controversies generated so far worth it? Do the artistes too also have a right to appeal the ban? Can music be banned or censored before its eventual release?

The NBC, which was established on August 24th, 1992 is the government parastatal responsible for regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria. The body derives its powers from Act 38 of 1992 and Act 55 of 1999 as amended.

About a week ago, the body placed the NTBB (Not To Be Broadcast) label on at least 18 popular Nigerian songs which include; Olamide’s Shakiti Bobo, Davido’s Fans Mi amongst others. This week, Seun Apara tries to examine the effects, controversies and the actual facts (truth).

The Effects –There are some songs that we really love to listen to, regardless of the explicit nature of the messages and imagery. We can understand that it exposes the mind of youngsters and children to hostile and corrupt ideology. So, majority agree that the ban on such songs should be taken as corrective measures.

However, the big question is; does the ban actually affect the popularity of the songs in this digital age? The answer is ‘NO’ but the body still has the obligation to carry out its statutory role as a regulatory agency.

Several research results have proven that the ban of a particular song increases the number of downloads by the fans of such music arising from curiosity on the part of several music enthusiasts who hitherto had not heard or paid much attention to the lyrics of such songs.

A ban sometimes draws more attention and tends to promote music, as the news of it arouses the curiosity which in turn drives the urge to search and listen to it with rapt attention.

Another factor to be taken seriously into consideration as proven by statistics, is the fact that fewer people watch music videos via local/terrestrial television channels as compared to DTH (Direct To Home) or extraterrestrial Channels in Nigeria as most of the music channels are on the different cable networks and the ban has practically no effect on them. At every party or event, the DJs still play these songs. What is however shocking is that children are quite conversant with the lyrics of all these banned songs including the accompanying dance steps.

Another point worthy of note, is that the demand for pirated CDs containing a selection of these banned songs along with several others from Alaba International Market with the popular parlance; “Alaba Mix” will increase.

The mobile telecommunication networks also have the banned songs as caller ring back tunes on their bouquets and raking in millions of naira in proceeds. They capitalize on the popularity of such songs which is in line with their business ideologies.

So as a matter of fact, the ban doesn’t really have deep impacts except on the airwaves via radio stations.

The Controversies – Some songs ideally deserve a ban but in most cases, the damage would already have been done before the ban is eventually effected. It is often perceived as medicine after death to ban a song a year after the release date. Sometimes, it looks as if what they succeed in doing is a form of disguised promotion of banned content. Some are quick to point this out as indicative of a faulty regulatory process in the NBC.

Majority are of the strong opinion that the NBC is putting the cart before the horse and argue that the ban has even made some of the songs more popular. Many also question the rationale behind NBC inability to review the lyrics of the songs and preview content of the videos for proper censorship before allowing the artistes to release them for public consumption.

However, the NBC cannot review lyrics or evaluate the content of a music  before the release due to the volume(s) of songs and unstructured nature of the music industry but the body can speed up its review system and ban any song found wanting within the first three months of release.

Popular comedian, Alibaba also condemned NBC’s act with the following quote – “I just heard that some songs were banned from airplay. Wait o, if it took NBC how many months to know the contents of a song were not fit for public consumption, then we should worry. Songs that I have heard Pastors singing sef. People even shakiti in church during praise and worship”.

The Truth-It is not out of place for NBC to ban a song even after a year as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has banned several songs in the past even after two years of release. Songs with the use of foul language in lyrics, explicit sexual content, supposed drug references, and controversial political subject matter mostly deserves a ban.

The BBC has claimed in recent years that they no longer ban any records. However, cases of direct or indirect censorship have happened while the bans on some songs have been lifted. Reports has it that records which have been banned have since been played on BBC radio without any official announcement that the ban has ended, such as The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”. BBC Radio once banned the full version of The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” in 2007, replacing it with an edited version; however, the ban was quickly lifted due to public outcry.

In as much the NBC is performing its statutory roles; they must align with the modern international standard practices. It is not necessary to ban an entire song. It’s considered sufficient to censor certain words rather than banning a song outright. Once the offending word had been changed, it should be safe for broadcast.

Also, the banned songs should constantly undergo reviews by the NBC music department as not all the songs deserve to be banned permanently (NBC should quickly put a music review department in place in case they don’t have. The BBC has a Director of Music). Artistes also have the right to appeal against the ban of their songs and the NBC should also be ready to dialogue with the artistes and their managements.

So if you are an artiste and you are not happy about the ban of your song, you can do an edited version or better still, sue NBC if you are not satisfied with the ban. NBC is a legal entity and can be sued.

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