Nigeria: Mixed Reactions Trail Amendment of Broadcasting Code

18 June 2020

Some stakeholders have reacted to the recently amended National Broadcasting Commission Code by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

They also called on NBC to rather seek policies that would incentivise and not punish local content creation and technology service delivery in the broadcast industry.

Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working to advance digital rights and inclusion in Africa, condemned the recently amended National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Code released to, "make provision for local content, increased advertising revenue, and restriction of monopolistic behaviour in the broadcast industry."

Chief Executive Officer of Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Ggenga Sesan said: "The Commission has by this amendment, laid down unfavorable conditions and requirements for the just budding PayTV Industry in Nigeria, placing unfair and unrealistic burdens on local content producers and by extension, the economy."

According to him, "While we are yet to get an official definition from the Commission for 'Web/Online Broadcasting', it is clear from the new provisions that certain clauses will affect the development of the sector.

"The compulsion to prevent exclusive rights to content on PayTV platforms is archaic and regressive, to say the least.

"Apart from it being a blatant affront to the freedom of copyright holders to use and license their work as they wish, it also chokes innovation in the streaming television business."

The NBC mandates that all persons wishing to operate web/online broadcasting services in Nigeria must register with the Commission. However, there is no public record of the Commission's consultation with these stakeholders in making these amendments, Sesan said, adding that the internet space in Nigeria is developing and innovation is to be encouraged.

"Policies like this can greatly discourage the development of technology and technology-based services thereby creating an unfavorable environment for the kind economic growth that is relevant in this age," he said.

He explained that with the new realities faced by Nigeria as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, government policies should not only desist from hampering nascent technologies but must in fact, encourage and incentivise same.

"The amendments to the NBC Code do not incentivise innovation in the broadcast and television industry and therefore, we join voices with other stakeholders to call upon the NBC to re-engage its process of amendment by opening dialogue between itself and the key stakeholders who would be affected by these policy directions," Sesan further said.

Reacting to public outcry over the amendment of the National Broadcasting Code, during a recent press conference in Abuja, the Acting Director General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, explained that the intention behind the amendment was to promote the noble principles and objectives of broadcasting in Nigeria as enunciated in the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

"The current amendment aims at to reposition Nigerian broadcasting industry and to make it more responsive to emerging realities in the broadcasting ecosystem.

"The Principal amendments are in the area of Promoting Local Advertising Industry; Creating a boost in the content production sector; Making Local Sports attractive as international content; and Discouraging anticompetitive behaviour."

He, however, said NBC had taken cognisance of the fact that some industry players raised concerns about the amendments.

"We know of a truth that broadcasting is dynamic, so are the challenges to regulation. The Board of the Commission and Management will look at all the concerns and observations raise extensively, with a view to produce a regulation that will be in the best national interest," Idachaba said.

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