NBC: Confusion over new broadcast code

Contrary to his widely publicized promise to engage stakeholders critical of its recently released code, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) announced a re-endorsement of the controversial regulation.

The re-endorsement was presented as a reconsideration of some of the amendments considered irksome by industry stakeholders.

The code, issued on 27 May, proposes sweeping amendments to how the industry will function when it takes effect. But the amendments provoked angry reactions from industry stakeholders, who were furious that the code was finalised without stakeholder consultation and accused the NBC of seeking to jeopardise investments as well as kill creativity in the industry via provisions to regulate exclusivity, mandate sub-licensing and control prices at which creators sell their content.

Prominent figures such as Jason Njoku, CEO IrokoTV, his wife, Remi, who heads ROK Studios, and Naz Onuzo, a movie producer, were stinging in their criticisms of the code.

Evidently stung by stakeholders’ complaints, the NBC, in a statement issued on Friday and signed by Ekanem Antia, Assistant Director, Public Affairs, said its board will meet this week and “smoothen the rough edges of the new amendments”. While thanking those who contributed to the new code, the NBC said it had become obvious that more voices need to be heard and that stakeholders who have ventilated their opinions be given adequate audience.

Yesterday (the first working day of the week) in Abuja, however, Dr Armstrong Idachaba, acting NBC Director-General, addressed a press conference where he re-endorsed the code. According to Idachaba, the loudest criticisms have been around Sections 6.2.8, which seeks to regulate exclusivity in sports broadcasting rights and 9.0.1, which compels right holders to any popular content to sub-license to other operators, including competitors.

“Exclusivity to programming shall not be allowed for sporting rights shall not be allowed in the Nigerian territory. We are simply saying in furtherance, therefore, that no broadcaster or licensee shall acquire foreign sporting rights in such a manner as to exclude persons or broadcasters in Nigeria from sub-licensing the same,” said Idachaba.

Industry figures maintain that the NBC failed to ask for their input, simply ratified what it had finalised and argued that Section 9.0.1 and others remain in force.

“Nigeria is a democracy and democracy should permeate all spheres of our national life. Multi-stakeholder engagement is a key element of democracy. No such thing happened. The NBC has acted like Moses the lawgiver. It acted dishonestly by giving an impression that it was ready for engagement and doing something else,” said a movie producer, who prefers anonymity.

He explained that not one line of the code has been reconsidered or reworked and as such, it cannot be taken that NBC re-looked the code.

“Once it comes into effect, every provision will have teeth. Even production industry people who think they will not be affected will be shocked. The victim is always the last to know. They have changed the story to make it read like it is only exclusivity to sports that is being regulated. We can read; they are minded to regulate every programme genre,” he added.

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