With the current breeze of ‘CHANGE’ in the system of Nigerian government, Northern Broadcast Media Owners Association (NBMOA), the umbrella body of broadcasters in the northern region, has decided to take the bull by the horn and voice out its grievances over the inconsistency in the broadcasting guidelines by the national regulatory body, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). This was made known during a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The roundtable talk, which was held on Monday, 30 December atRadio House, Abuja, saw Dr. Tijjani Ramalan led executive members of NBOA leaving the honourable ministers with a sensitive submission to battle with.
However, with the ongoing digitisation that had ruled out fresh license offers for terrestrial TV, NBMOA has raised an allegation on fresh terrestrial TV approval for Wazobia TV that is broadcasting on UHF 307 in Lagos.
Below is the excerpt of NBMOA Submission to the Honourable Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed:
Honourable Minister, we bring the sincere best wishes of staff, management and boards of our member organisations as you set forth to reposition the information and culture sectors.
Consequently, we are commitment to positively respond to government policies that will be aimed at rebuilding and preserving the sanctity, integrity and unity of the Nigerian state.
NBMOA was formed in 2014 by operators of private broadcast media organisations to collaborate and share human and material resources, and other forms of critical knowledge, amongst members, and promote the unity and development of Nigeria.
The NBMOA consists of 15 licensed private broadcast operators with a combined platform of 22 radio and television stations; employs more than 5,000 Nigerians in diverse fields such as broadcast Journalism, engineering and technology, administration, marketing, etc; and has an audience base in excess of 50 million.
As we continue to invest in the broadcast sector, we are encouraged by government’s pronouncement to broaden participation in building a vibrant television and media economy, and consequently attain a 100 percent digital TV penetration in Nigeria by 2016.
We most respectfully welcome the prospect of a level playing field in the broadcast sector, as it is curious that while a good number of our members have consistently applied for television licenses without success, only two private terrestrial TV stations operate in the whole of the Northern region. Yet terrestrial TV broadcast licenses, including so-called network status, are being granted to a select few, even when we were conditioned to accept that the ongoing digitisation had ruled out any fresh license offers for terrestrial TV.
We are surprised that Wazobia TV has been given a fresh terrestrial TV approval and is already broadcasting on UHF 307 in Lagos, and will soon commence broadcast in Abuja and Port Harcourt. We really don’t know why we are being denied a terrestrial market head-start like others in the country.
A few of our members have nonetheless opted for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), notably the Startimes, at costs that are inconsistent with market expectations. For the records, there are four private TV channels from the region on the Startimes platform; one other operates on free view.
Honourable Minister, we appeal to your wise and informed counsel to redress a situation that deliberately rejects our aspirations to fully participate in the broadcast sector. This lopsidedness stunts our growth and denies our potentially huge audiences their inalienable right to alternative content. We believe, justifiably so, that what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.
As the machineries of government gather momentum in the first quarter of 2016, we seek the moderation of your esteemed office for sustainable patronage from different agencies of government as our various organisations are groaning under huge salaries arrears and unbearable operating costs due to low public and private sector patronage.
Honourable Minister, as witnesses to the current but abating security challenges, particularly in the North, we earnestly commend government for turning the tide and gradually winning the war against terror by first reclaiming seized Nigerian territories, and the subsequent dismantling of the obstacles to free movement for many Nigerians.
Terrorist actions, in addition to the destruction of thousands of innocent lives, also badly affected business in most of the areas of our operations, forcing many members to the brink of closing shop.
Against the backdrop of the precondition for our survival in the broadcast sector, chiefly a peaceful, united, equitable and prosperous nation, we wholeheartedly support government’s fight against official corruption and impunity, and look forward to forging effective partnership to communicate a new national reorientation and ethos to Nigerians across all populations.
As the Honourable Minister settles down to work, we most respectfully you’re your permission to convey a few of our prayers in anticipation of your consideration.
- National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill: We humbly request the current administration to cause a pause to proceedings on the bill in other to have wider stakeholder inputs.
- Pay TV Channel Fees: Government should look into the discrepancies between the fees paid by local and foreign content providers for channel acquisition on our DTT platforms. While local content providers pay the sum of N30 million per annum, in addition to N10 million approval fees to the NBC, foreign content providers are required to pay only the sum of N50,000.
- DIGI Team Composition: There’s a need for the Digi Team, a creation of the NBC to drive the digitisation process, to be recomposed in reflection of the interest of stakeholders.
- Digitisation: The NBC should be made to apply the ethics of equal opportunity in the selection and approval of content providers so that sections of the country are not deliberately excluded from the broadcast media economy.
- Terrestrial TV License: We humbly request the Honourable Minister to consider the issuance of Terrestrial TV Licenses to interested members of our Association so that we have equal footing and audience share head-start ahead of the full digitisation of the TV broadcast sector.
- Government Patronage: We seek your kind intervention in working together with ministries, departments and agencies of government to promote policies and or campaigns on our various platforms.
- Composition of the Board of NBC and APCON: We will appreciate the kind understanding of the Honourable Minister to identify and include some of our members to the boards of the two foremost broadcast regulatory agencies.
- Payment of Radio Licensing Fees: We kindly appeal to the Honourable Minister to look into the Radio licensing fees of N15 million, and similarly the N15 million renewal fees, we pay irrespective of the area of operations. The fees are steep for those of us operating in the North as the business environment is not vibrant in comparison to operators in the South, who in addition enjoy more patronage from advertising agencies.
- NBC Code: Honourable Minister, we most respectfully request your reassessment of the penalties or sanctions due to ‘erring stations’ as contained in the NBC Code, with a view to creating a window for appeal; such as a committee of professional arbiters.
- Honourable Minister’s Media Visits: We are hopeful that private media houses will be on the Honourable Minister’s schedule as he looks into the nation’s media assets. We will appreciate the opportunity to host the Minister at our respective bases or as a group.