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Angst as NBC Defends Controversial Broadcasting Code

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Operators and experts are expressing anger and frustration over the provisions of the 6th edition of the Broadcasting Code Amendment as issued by National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), that summarily outlaws exclusivity and makes investing in original content a waste of resources, fundamentally.

Angst as NBC Defends Controversial Broadcasting Code

Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, acting director-general of NBC

The NBC has however insisted that the broadcasting Code is to protect local operators, promote creativity and maximise local contents.

But the operators which the NBC claims to be protecting said the government agency’s plan is tantamount to “turning private enterprises into state property”.

Under the new code, NBC requires that all online broadcasters to be with it, prevent PayTV and streaming platforms from making content exclusive and compel them to sub-license content at prices it will regulate.

Jason Njoku, chief executive officer, iRokoTV, one of the top PayTV platforms in Nigeria, warned that the new law, if implemented, will destroy PayTV in Nigeria and alleged that NBC in compelling sub-licensing of content & regulating price, would effectively turn a private enterprise into state property.

Njoku said, “Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in making exclusivity illegal, compelling sub-licensing of content & regulating price, are effectively turning the private enterprise into state property. Interference Distorts Markets. If implemented this 100% destroys PayTV in Nigeria.

“This our champagne socialism & zero input style of policymaking is the reason Nigeria is stunted in everything. I invest billions naira in content then I am compelled to share with everyone else as NBC sets the price. Why? Dark forces or incompetence is at play here. Ridiculous.”

He explained that if Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua are to fight, and it is to be shown in Nigeria, that means the equivalent of 30% of the license costs need to be invested in an equivalent local sport. “Who will pay for that?” he inquired.

Also, Paradigm Initiative said the Code might set back innovation in the country’s digital space.

According the Paradigm Initiative, “The internet space in Nigeria is developing and innovation is to be encouraged,”.

“However, policies like this can greatly discourage the development of technology and technology-based services thereby creating an unfavourable environment for the kind of economic growth that is relevant in this age.” It said.

Elsewhere, Ayobami Oyeleke, policy expert and a lawyer explained that the NBC, which was created by a military decree in 1992 and later became an Act of the Nigerian National Assembly to regulate Nigeria’s broadcast industry, does not have the power to regulate copyrights of others.

He said that Nigeria’s Copyright Act allows a content producer to grant to distributors and that the NBC has no legal right to determine who shares what content or even fix certain prices.

He said, “The agency cannot correct a wrong with another wrong. For such code to be a success, it must approach the National Assembly to amend the Copyright Act. After three readings, the committee would hold a public hearing in that regard before that is done.”

Tosan Igbene, a content creator, also warned that the code may truncate Mo Abudu’s Netflix deal and many others in the works.

He said: “Since the code prohibits exclusivity, it means that whatever EbonyLife TV produces could end up on other platforms. That will negate the exclusive agreement. Importantly too, Netflix will hesitate at the prospect of the NBC determining what price it should charge as sub-licencing fees. The fact is that these sections and the whole code, as well as produced without stakeholders’ consultation will kill the Nigerian broadcasting industry.”

Boye Dare, another content creator, contended that no investor will fold its arms and watch a regulation jeopardise its investments.

“Netflix are here for business and they will not like anything that threatens their well-being. The NBC Code seeks to legislate on when and whom to sell to as well as the price. The code is a threat to the partnership with EbonyLive TV and of course, Nollywood,” Dare said.

But Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, acting director-general of NBC, said that the Code Amendment is to protect local operators, promote creativity and maximise local contents.

Idachaba, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, that the amendment would benefit the media industry in the country as well as attract foreign investments in the digital space.

According to him, the amendment which is without bias will checkmate monopolistic and anti/competitive behavior and by extension enhance the local creative industry.

“The objectives behind the amendment is key and pivotal to the development of broadcasting in Nigeria and the reform of the industry.

“However, while the NBC acknowledge the mixed reactions by some interests to the release of the amendment, we consider them strategic and healthy for the growth and development of the broadcast industry in Nigeria.

“I want to sincerely commend those who have intellectualised and enriched the discourse with incisive and decent arguments both for and against.


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New Broadcast Code Unworkable and Unenforceable- Okoroji

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Chief Tony Okoroji, chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), has joined the stakeholders in the creative and broadcast industries calling for a revisit of the recently amended 6th edition of the National Broadcasting Code.

New Broadcast Code Unworkable and Unenforceable- Okoroji

Chief Tony Okoroji, chairman, COSON

Okoroji made the call while speaking on both News Scope with Patrick Doyle, Silverbird Television’s flagship public affairs programme; and The Morning Show on Arise News.

According to Okoroji, the code’s stated objective of increasing Nigerians’ participation in the creation and dissemination of broadcast content, is commendable.

However, he stated that the amendments to code have been drafted in a way that makes them unworkable and unenforceable, as they carry the potential for unending litigation and risk for significant divestment from the creative space.

The COSON chief said the drafters of the code may have acted ultra vires, as they appear to be minded to place a subsidiary legislation above the constitution, which implies an attempt to usurp the powers of the National Assembly to make laws.

He noted that some provisions of the code may be unconstitutional, notably those on content exclusivity, advertising and payment of royalties for musical works and sound recordings.

He observed that the drafters seek to treat the rights of parties in to a contract to agree on their terms with indifference.

Okoroji, a reputed intellectual property expert, expressed concern that the NBC did not take input from many key stakeholders, who will be impacted by the code, before or during the amendment process, which he said took place when movement was restricted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Others who have called for a revisit of the code include Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, former chairman, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), who said many issues the code seeks to address are already adequately covered by the APCON Code. He called on the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to reconstitute the APCON Council, which can better deal with the issues related to advertising.

Also, Mr. Chris Ehindero, an independent movie producer, said the code will kill investments in the creative space at a time the industry is about to start enjoying investments in big productions. Similarly, Mr. Richard Akinnola, a renowned journalist and Director, Media Law Centre, said the code cannot withstand legal scrutiny.

The Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria (IBAN) has also asked the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to suspend the implementation of the amended 6th broadcasting code.

On The Morning Show on Arise News, Okoroji said that he suspects that the hold that MultiChoice has on the English Premiership is driving some of the provisions in the revised code.

He suggested that some Nigerian broadcasting stations should pull their resources together and challenge MultiChoice rather than going it alone.

He complained about the recent penchant of Nigerians to attack Nigerian companies with foreign origins, saying that such may lead to serious divestment in Nigeria and massive loss of jobs held by Nigerians.

“MultiChoice may have originated from South Africa, but Multichoice Nigeria is a Nigerian company. The Chairman of the company, Mr. Adewumi Ogunsanya, is a Nigerian; the CEO, Mr. John Ugbe, is a Nigerian.

“Thousands of Nigerians make their living through MultiChoice. What do we gain by hounding the company?


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Pay-as-You-Go not Applicable to Pay TV – FCCPC

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Mr. Babatunde Irukera,chief executive, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), has stated that the pay-as-you-go billing model in telecommunications is not necessarily applicable to pay television.

Pay-as-You-Go not Applicable to Pay TV – FCCPC

Irukera said this on Friday while appearing on Sunrise Daily, Channels Television’s flagship public affairs programme.

Responding to a question on the subject, Irukera said many pay television subscribers confuse the operations of telecommunications with those of the pay television industry.

He explained that it what obtains in telecoms is not necessarily applicable in pay television, as broadcast content must have been paid for and customers only pay for access unlike in telecommunications where the subscriber only pays when the timer starts.

He added that that what consumers mean to ask for is actually pay-per-view and went further to differentiate the two terms.

“My challenge with what sometimes is the discussion around pay-as-you-go in pay TV is that there is a disconnection and we’ve been through this.

“We have conducted some investigations and we have done some surveys in different parts of the world.

“The pay-as-you-go model in telecommunications is not necessarily applicable and so we confuse it sometimes with pay-per-view.

“Pay-per-view is not that you pay for what you view from the point of when you turn your television on.

“It is primarily that there are certain programmes, maybe a boxing match, a soccer match or some movies that are still in the cinemas that some of the pay TV operators have bought and you can literally request instead of going to a stadium or going to a cinema to watch, you can watch it in your home and pay for that view.

“That is pay-per-view, but we confuse it with pay-as-you-go.

“What people are asking for in pay-as-you-go is when you turn on your television and you are watching, you pay. When you turn off your television and you are not watching, you don’t pay.

“It is difficult because the content has been created, what you are paying for is access.

“How you use the access is entirely discretionary and up to you.

“Unlike the telephone where the clock starts and the airtime goes down, you have paid for content,” he said.

The agitation for the implementation of pay-as-you-go in Nigeria is a loud one. An Ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives is currently investigating the non-implementation of pay-as-you-go by pay television service providers.

In a presentation to the committee on June 30, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister, Information and Culture, said the adoption of pay-as-you-go will allow consumers to select channels for themselves, pay daily, weekly or bi-monthly for packages.

 

 


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StarTimes Hikes Subscription Prices, Introduces New Channels

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StarTimes, leading pay- tv operator, on Friday marginally adjusted its subscription prices taking effect from August 1 just as the company deepened its content offering with new channels.

StarTimes Hikes Subscription Prices, Introduces New Channels

With the price increase, basic bouquet now goes for N1,700 as against N1,300 monthly to enjoy close to 80 channels; Classic Bouquet subscribers will pay N2,500 as against N1,900 monthly with close to 100 channels while Nova bouquet remains unchanged at N900 with over 43 channels.

At a virtual press conference on Friday, Viki Liu, brand and marketing executive of StarTimes, said for dish users: smart bouquet subscribers will pay N2,200 as against N1,900 monthly; Super Bouquet subscribers will pay N4,200 as against N3,800 monthly while Nova bouquet remains unchanged at N900.

She stated that StarTimes was not known for incessant price increase, recalling how the firm slashed prices on two occasions in 2017 and 2018 in its drive to make digital TV available to every home.

So far the company has expanded the scope of its offerings, introducing 15 new channels in the last six months as well as the pay as you go which enables subscribers to daily or weekly.

The price increase was said to have been effected in other African countries since the first quarter of this year.

The new pricing took effect in Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar from March 1st, while it took effect in Rwanda and Zambia on June 1st 2020.

The company said the recent increment in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 % to 7.5 % as well as the foreign exchange rate had impacted on the cost of operation.

“All of our foreign content is bought in dollars and to continually serve our subscribers the best content, the subscription price has to be reviewed upwards.

“Dollar was about N360 in 2017; today, it’s above N450 in the parallel market. Unfortunately, certain external factors are beyond our control; we are forced to adjust to realities before us,” Liu added.


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