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IPC, others seek extension of debt payment duration by broadcast stations

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Folowing Federal Government’s recent decision to grant 60 per cent conditional relief to broadcast stations, the professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, Ralph Akinfeleye; Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade and Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Akin Akingbulu have said the three months granted to pay 40 per cent of the total debts should be extended even as they agreed that print media should also benefit from the waiver.

In a chat with The Guardian in Lagos recently, Akinfeleye noted that the duration is an unequal exchange. “In order to make the exchange equal, the

Lai Mohammed

(NBC) and Ministry of Information should make broadcast stations pay within six months or one year,” he said.

Akinfeleye, who is also Council Member, World Journalism Education Congress, added that if broadcast stations were asked to pay within three months, it means they are injecting more virus into the system.

He said government should also do same for print and social media.

Similarly, Arogundade noted that the decision is a welcome development but government should have done more.

According to him, it was expected that government drastically reduced the licensing fee for broadcast stations. The licensing fee, he observed, is too exorbitant.

Continuing, he said, “the waiver to be paid by broadcast stations should have been one year.”

According to him, “government should also make newsprint for print media and technological equipment for the broadcast media houses duty free.”

In his view, Akingbulu urged government to extend the duration of the waiver to six months or more so that broadcast stations would be able to source for funds.

The waiver, he reasoned, should also be extended to reputable online platforms like Premium Times and The Cable.

He said government should also find a way to assist broadcasters financially, adding that print media houses should also benefit from the waiver.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, accompanied by the Acting Director General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Aduku Idachaba, last Monday, announced that Federal Government is granting debt forgiveness of 60 per cent to broadcast stations in the country whose indebtedness stands at N7.8billion.

Similarly, The Lagos Film Academy (LFA) has condemned the amendment to the Sixth Edition of the NBC Code, which according to NBC, seeks to make content exclusivity illegal and compels right holders to sub-license content they have exclusive rights to, to other broadcasters, at a price enforced by the NBC.

The LFA sees the new code as problematic and believes the code will negatively impact the lives of Nigerian creatives and content producers who currently struggle with numerous challenges of production and distribution. The code will make it even more difficult for operators and investors to derive maximum value from the value chain of content production or broadcast.

LFA stated that real growth in the broadcast industry will come from opening up the content production, distribution and broadcasting space by removing unnecessary roadblocks. Here are our immediate suggestions to the NBC:

The academy insists that NBC must “Widen the scope of consultations around the amendment of the broadcasting code. Invite, involve and include real industry players, listen to their genuine concerns and inspire a level playing field. Be a truly neutral industry regulator. Lay the guidelines, stand away and let the players play. NBC should not be involved in fixing sub-licensing prices, as it should be a willingbuyer-to-willing-seller agreement that doesn’t involve the regulatory body.”

LFA advised the NBC to ban the sale of airtime in the Nigerian broadcast industry, urging broadcasters to live or die by their content creation and commissioning. Without a market-driven motivation to invest in content, local broadcasters may simply sit back and collect rent, like the NTA of today does. The academy believes that the action would reinvigorate the local content space massively.

The LFA called on NBC and the Federal Government to suspend and reverse this recent amendment to the code.


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