New NBC broadcasting code could transform the sports industry, but…
When a nation’s leaders see a vision and work towards achieving it, they set their people on a path towards self-reliance. In July 2017, former Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed made a statement that generated a ripple effect in the sports industry. “We will amend the NBC code to ensure that our Premier League improves. We will make sure that in the Code if you spend one million dollars to support a foreign football club like Manchester United in Nigeria, you will not be allowed to air that programme unless you spend 30 per cent of that money to promote Nigeria’s league,” he said. I wrote about it in August (Can protectionism rescue Nigerian sport?), exploring how it can be achieved.
It came to pass two years later on July 4, 2019, as the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code was launched by the National Broadcasting Commission. While the majority of the reportage centred around political engagement on the airwaves based on the recent experience of the 2019 general elections and the ban placed on the Africa Independent Television, the sports media missed the opportunity to scrutinize what the code provided for sports broadcasting and advertising. It seems we all forgot Minister Mohammed’s promise as one of the propaganda expected of his office. Alas.
In his preface, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, Director-General of the NBC, wrote passionately about providing a patriotic broadcasting code that would ensure the primacy of local content across many platforms, one of which is the sports industry. Mr Kawu indicated that the code “needed to become strongly affirmative of the national aspiration to create and defend jobs in the creative industries within the Nigerian economy.”
One of the ways by which the 2019 national broadcasting code seeks to achieve its aim is by regulating the sports broadcast industry in a way that it will generate greater value for local sports events as broadcast content. While the fifth version of the code from 2010 did not provide a quota for local sports to be shown on Nigerian airwaves, the new code seeks to lessen cultural imperialism and domination of the airwaves by foreign sports content by instituting a quota for local sports going forward.
Article 6.2.11 holds that “No Prime Foreign Sports Context (sic) shall be transmitted in the Nigerian territory unless the owner of such content has also acquired Prime Local Sports Content of the same category with a minimum of 30 per cent of the cost of acquiring the Prime Foreign Sports Content.” This simply means that for every $100 million spent on buying foreign content like the English Premier League $30 million should be spent in buying an equivalent like the Nigeria Professional Football League. If a broadcaster buys Wimbledon, it must spend 30 percent on acquiring and developing local tennis like the Lagos Open. Even though they may not be at the same level, there must be an attempt to develop the local equivalent through commensurate spending. The broadcaster must also give the same level of coverage on its various platforms to local content as it offers to the prime foreign sports content.
The code also has a guide for advertisers who make use of popular sports events to reach their market. Industry research indicated that ₦110 billion was spent by Nigeria’s 15 leading brands in sponsoring English football clubs between 2016 and 2019. With the new broadcast code in place, things are set to change. Article 6.2.12 states that the “Advertisement of products and services during prime foreign sports contents shall not be broadcast unless the advertiser equally sponsors, and or advertises such products and services in the broadcast of prime local sports content in the same category, where such local sports content are available in Nigeria.”
When I spoke to some broadcast industry executives about this provision in the new broadcasting code, they were dismissive. The general opinion is that NBC cannot coerce businesses to spend their money on local sports where there are no eyeballs. The consensus is that advertisers will place their adverts where the fans are watching based on the data available. Any attempt by the NBC or the government to enforce the new broadcasting code could lead to dire consequences for sports broadcasters and the industry. A leading executive suggested that the Central Bank of Nigeria should provide funding for domestic sports events just as it is doing for the creative industry if the sports content industry is to become prolific.
If the NBC were to succeed in making the broadcasters and advertisers obey its new code, it could mean a huge leap for the Nigerian sports industry. There will be many new jobs created across the sports value chain and it will make sports events more glamorous while providing more funds for athletes. If both broadcasters and advertisers start by putting as little as 10 percent of the amount they spend on prime foreign content in local sports events, we will experience a drastic lift.
However, making laws is different from implementation. The government may not be able to force a change. It is always a tricky affair to legislate business spending. There have to be ways in which both sides can find a middle ground to improve the fate of the domestic sports industry.