The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission is at it again. The body in charge of regulating broadcast media over the last two decades has routinely tried to erase the rights of private citizens to free speech and public congress and employed draconian censorship techniques to cripple the media industry. Last week, it took a broad swipe at digital and online media by introducing a new amendment to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) code that it claims ‘makes provision for local content, increased advertising revenue and restriction of monopolistic behaviour in the broadcasting industry’.
In a country where media companies have aggressively courted foreign partners to provide technical support, experience and funding, the new NBC code requires that companies hire unreasonable percentages of indigenous actors, producers, directors and employees in all levels of these companies. This edict targets Pay TV and streaming which is finally starting to open to Nigerians and threatens their likelihood for profit, denying local content producers much needed collaboration opportunities. This is why non-profit like the Paradigm Initiative (which deals with Digital Rights in Nigeria) and the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC) have both put forward statements to condemn the government’s interference and reassert the value of a market economy especially for digital media.
In light of the recent amendments to the National Broadcasting Commission code, @neclive has issued a statement.
They believe this will end up discouraging investment in local content production and are calling on the Federal Government and the NBC to reconsider the decision. pic.twitter.com/iJSbcSje8L
— NET (@theNETng) June 23, 2020
This statement from NEC, supporting the statement from Paradigm information (quoted below) outline how these directives, while well meaning will only ultimately be detrimental to the industry. When will the Federal government through its MDA’s learn to stop meddling blindly in industries that have thrived in spite of government interference and only regulate when they have consulted duly with stakeholders and protected their interests?
The Commission has by this Amendment, laid down unfavorable conditions and requirements for the just budding PayTV Industry in Nigeria; placing unfair and unrealistic burdens on local content producers and by extension, the economy.
While we’re yet to get an official definition from the Commission for ‘Web/Online Broadcasting’, it is clear from the new provisions that certain clauses will affect the development of the sector. The compulsion to prevent exclusive rights to content on PayTV platforms is archaic and regressive, to say the least. Apart from it being a blatant affront to the freedom of copyright holders to use and license their work as they wish, it also chokes innovation in the streaming television business.
Furthermore, the NBC mandates that all persons wishing to operate web/online broadcasting services in Nigeria must register with the Commission. However, there is no public record of the Commission’s consultation with these stakeholders in making these amendments.
The internet space in Nigeria is developing and innovation is to be encouraged. However, policies like this can greatly discourage the development of technology and technology-based services thereby creating an unfavorable environment for the kind economic growth that is relevant in this age.
Especially with the new realities faced by Nigeria as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, government policies should not only desist from hampering nascent technologies but must in fact, encourage and incentivize same. The amendments to the NBC Code do not incentivize innovation in the broadcast and television industry and therefore, we join voices with other stakeholders to call upon the NBC to re-engage its process of amendment by opening dialogue between itself and the key stakeholders who would be affected by these policy directions.
Furthermore, we call on the NBCto seek policies that will incentivize and not punish local content creation and technology service delivery in the broadcast industry.