THE Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has pledged to assist in securing a N10 billion Nigeria Media Intervention Fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In a virtual meeting on Tuesday with the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) on the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the media and efforts to salvage the industry, Mohammed promised to follow up on the loan request and to ensure that it is granted with zero or single digit interest rate.
He assured to take the matter to the Federal Executive Council, Minister of Finance and the Comptroller-General of Customs for waivers and relief tariff in the importation of media equipment and consumables.
Mohammed noted the importance of the media in managing the pandemic through sensitization to its reality, the preventive measures, especially as there is no known cure yet.
He observed that “a recent survey showed that 99 per cent of Nigerians are aware of the pandemic while 95 per cent know what to do to avert contracting it, and this is made possible by the media.”
The Chairman of NPAN and founding Chairman, This Day Media Group, Nduka Obaigbena, who initially pointed out the difficulty of processing the N10bn loan, called for increase in advertising budget across all platforms of government to better inform the people and disseminate critical information.
The minister pointed out that the pandemic has affected sources of government revenue and forcing ministries to slash capital budget by 20 per cent and overhead by 15 per cent, except for the ministries of Health, Education and Defence.
He suggested that the Federal Government take a cue from Australia, where the government intervened in ensuring that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms pay for coronavirus contents by their media.
The 85-year-old veteran Publisher of the Vanguard Newspaper, Sam Amuka, said the support of the government was critical to the survival of the industry, and noted how the media has been playing its roles, despite the effects of the pandemic on the industry.
Mr Wale Edun of The Nation newspaper underscored the importance of the intervention fund, tax relief and a need for a blanket compensation in the media to restore livelihood.
The Chairman of the Board of Punch newspapers, Mrs Angela Emuwa said media support in terms of incentive would help the industry do its work of information dissemination.
The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mustapha Isah said supporting the media would help save jobs while some participants noted that government support should also be extended to online and new outfits.
Mohammed called on the NPAN to forward to him a proposal on how government can influence Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms to pay for the contents sourced from the Nigeria media.
He assured that “I am more than willing to ensure that content owners get maximum reward on their intellectual property and productivity.”