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FG okays conditional 60% debt relief for broadcast stations

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Nigeria’s minister of Information Lai Mohammed AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

• To consider palliative for print media
• Insist on breaking DSTV monopoly

The Federal Government yesterday granted debt forgiveness of 60 percent to broadcast stations in the country whose indebtedness currently stands at N7.8 billion.

Consequently, the benefitting stations are to pay only 40 percent of their total debt to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) within three months with effect from July 10 or lose the special concession.

At a media briefing in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the government considered the waivers as a measure of instituting financial sustainability among broadcast stations in Nigeria.

The minister, who was accompanied by the Acting Director General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Aduku Idachaba, listed some conditions to be fulfilled by the debtor stations to enjoy the waiver.

One of the terms is that the debtor stations must pay 40 percent of their existing debt within the next three months. Any station that is unable to pay 40 percent of its debt within the window period shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the debt forgiveness.

Other waivers approved by the government include discounting of existing license fee by 30 per cent for all open terrestrial radio and television services effective July 10th, 2020. The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional and licensed terrestrial radio and television stations only.

Mohammed explained that the debt forgiveness and discount would not apply to pay television service operators in the country and that the effective date of the debt forgiveness should be July 10th, 2020 to October 6th, 2020

The waivers followed recommendations by the NBC to the government to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the broadcast stations, after a meeting on May 6, 2020, between the minister and representatives of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), who requested the intervention of the federal and state governments.

Mohammed said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected all sectors of the nation’s economy with the broadcast industry being particularly hard hit due to falling revenues occasioned by dwindling advertisements and patronage.

He said the government set up the Post-COVID-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry to help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on the sector, and its recommendations included benefits to all component parts of the larger creative industry.

According to Mohammed, the debt forgiveness is an addition to the two-month licence-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations by the NBC.

On bailout for the print media, the minister said the Federal Government was engaging with the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, (NPAN) to explore ways the government could be of help, but observed that the situation of the print media was slightly different from that of the broadcast. He disclosed that owners of the print media had been asked to submit some documents to the government for consideration.

Idachaba, who spoke on the monopoly of pay television currently enjoyed by Multichoice, owners of DSTV, said the NBC would go all the way this time to enforce the broadcast regulation that benefits all Nigerians.

Mohammed added that pay as you go television services in the country was achievable and that the service providers might at the end gain more by expanding their businesses.


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