Takeaways from NBC/stakeholders’ webinar

THE stakeholders’ virtual meeting which was recently held proved to be a pivotal intervention in the life of the amended 6th broadcasting code and some of the controversies that have trailed it since it was made public. The webinar in fact gave the major actors in the episode, including the Acting DG, Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba; the National Secretary, Association of Movie Producers, Baba Agba; CEO, Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, Mr. Mayowa Ayilaran; IrokoTV Founder, Jason Njoku and Sport Broadcaster and Media Consultant, Nnamdi Obayan, the platform to bear their minds on some contentious issues surrounding the code. As an interested party and participant, here are my five takeaways from the webinar. One, the new amendment is not targeted at platforms like DSTV and IrokoTV. The biggest misinformation being proliferated about the amended NBC code is that it is targeted at breaking what is alleged to be the monopoly of DSTV in order to end its right of exclusivity to some of the biggest sporting events from around the world. It has also been alleged that the government is on a personal crusade to end the domination of Iroko TV on the online streaming platform. In reality, such theories are unfounded, as clearly expressed by the stakeholders.

Does sharing contents automatically translate to loss of revenue? No. The controversy that these platforms are the main target are, to my mind, unfounded, especially when you consider that the same DSTV is the highest revenue maker for the government in the paytv industry. What the government aims to achieve primarily is to illegalize the exclusivity of contents as is done in other climes in the world and bring more value to Nigeria and Nigerians at affordable costs. Part of the value is giving visibility to Nigeria local sports. While it can’t be denied that some operators would be more affected than others in the industry, the new regulation will promote effective competition among players without making them less profitable.

Secondly, it will not “kill” paytv.  If pay-TV did not die in the UK and the US where similar regulations are in force, why will it die in Nigeria?  The demand that paytv companies invest in the Nigerian economy by sharing acquired content with local broadcasters and promoting local content does not translate to death. Rather, it strengthens the business environment and ultimately, the operators’ businesses.  My second takeaway therefore, which arises from the first, is that the new regulation will in the long run strengthen paytv business in Nigeria. Not only will it enrich the companies and stimulate increased production of premium contents, it will create for them a healthy environment to do business. As explained by Baba Agba, what the regulation does is compel “content creators to license to broadcast channels who are broadcasters and broadcast channels to broadcast platforms who are broadcasters. So, in my view, it works for content creators because channels are available on more platforms which means more adverts, higher licensing fees, and better opportunities in general.”

The third takeaway is that the is there is no conflict between the NBC code and the copyright act. Critics promote the narrative that the NBC code conflicts with existing copyright laws and thus invalidates subsisting laws. Nothing is farther from the truth than this narrative as explained in the webinar. The code neither seeks to take the right to ownership of the work from the originator, nor to slash their pecuniary reward from such efforts. If anything, the new code has come to strengthen compliance with the existing the act. Prof. Idachaba argued: “Clearly, the NBC does not conflict with regulations that are already existing. If anything, the NBC code actually prescribes that we expect broadcasters to abide by all the relevant laws that relates to the broadcast industry, including the copyright act. And I don’t see where the conflict is. By the way, nobody is saying you cannot acquire a right. Most broadcasters actually deals with the right that are owned by other people. How many of them actually produce or own their own content?”

The NBC has been accused of being drunk on it’s own importance by seeking to set sub-licensing pricing. This is also untrue and misleading. As a major takeaway from the webinar, the NBC will not dictate transaction costs between operators and broadcasters as long as the price involved is “fair” to both parties.  According to the DG, the NBC will only act to arbitrate when there is no agreement between buyers and sellers. In any case, NBC’s intervention will be unnecessary where both parties transact in trust, transparency and integrity as is the goal. The NBC engaged stakeholders and continues to engage stakeholders in shaping the amended code. The NBC, while empowered by law to regulate the broadcast industry, did not amend the 6th Edition of the NBC code without the input of other stakeholders are being peddled. The amendment, as explained by the DG, is actually a product of written and oral submissions by various stakeholders in the industry. Submissions gathered across different fora on widespread dissatisfaction with previous regulations are the product what resulted in the amendment.

The perceived marginalisation by some stakeholders in the process of amending the code is, in actual fact, evidence of repeated non-participation in programmes organised by the regulator and sister bodies. Mr. Ayilaran made this revelation while responding to the question on non-consultation at the webinar. He revealed that stakeholder fora that are organized by regulatory bodies are usually greeted with apathy from those how should be in attendance. Notwithstanding, post-amendment engagements have also continued to take place to get the buy-in of stakeholders. For example, it is on record that some operators had written to seek clarifications on some sections of the code and have received prompt responses from the regulator.

  • Olu writes in from Lagos

 

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