A bill entitled: A Bill for an Act to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act to provide for competition in Nigeria, to promote efficiency and expand opportunities for participation of Nigerians in world markets while at the same time recognising the role of foreign competition in Nigeria and for other matters related thereto, has passed the second reading.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hajiya Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed yesterday, in her submission, while defending the bill to amend the NBC Act, asked that the Act be amended to protect consumers and check monopoly of DSTV and other cable networks under the guise of exclusive rights.
According to the lawmaker, the shutting out of viewers of cable televisions and limiting their access to important programmes are contrary to Section 16(1b and 2c) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The decree which is now an Act of the National Assembly was established on the foundation of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria As Amended. Section 16 (1b) and (2c),” Ahmed said.
“Unfortunately, this commendable effort has been truncated by a new form of monopoly that threatens the social, political and economic needs of the Nigerian people.
“The policy which is referred to as premium contents/programmes by broadcasting companies with more financial muscles and influence is a new form of monopoly where these companies are given exclusive right to broadcast programmes with high demand while other operators are excluded.
“This runs contrary to the vision and mission of the establishing the commission because this monopoly allows the operator to increase subscription cost at will and give you what they feel like giving because one does not have a choice.
“DSTV through its local partner Multichoice in Nigeria has the exclusive right to broadcast the English Premier League, National Geographic, major sporting tournaments, discovery, Reality TV and a host of other important programmes. DSTV ensure that you pay full subscription before you have access to important programmes which runs contrary to section 16 (1b and 2c) of the 1999 Constitution.”
She urged the legislators to act fast to stop DSTV’s continued monopoly, so as not to stifle the growth of Nigeria’s broadcasting industry.
“As legislators, if we do not act fast the growing nature of this type of monopoly will stifle the industry in Nigeria. As the voice of the people we have the constitutional obligation to make laws for the good governance of our country. This bill seeks to use the instrumentality of the law to protect the citizens of this country from unwarranted exploitation.
“It is interesting to note that Communications Minister Mr. Yunus Carrim of South Africa, where DSTV originated, had on 19th March 2014 halted DSTV’s monopoly and created cheaper tariff as well as making premium programmes available to the poor in that country . They have created room for Africans to own pay TVs and de-monopolize movies.
“The consumers in Nigeria must be protected. In Kenya for instance, the Communication Authority (CA) has come up with a regulation that will prohibit the monopoly of premium contents in the country. Mr. Francis Wangusi, the Director-General of the CA was happy to inform Kenyans that they were set free from the monopolistic and exorbitant fees operators have been charging.
“In India, the Telecommunication Interconnection Regulation 2004 prohibits broadcasters of TV Channels from entering into any arrangement or understanding for exclusive contracts with any distributor. It has mandated all broadcasters to provide on request signals of its TV on non discriminatory terms.
“We as legislators are the representatives of the people and we know that the task of creating the environment for proper private sector participation is that of the government,” she said.
House Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, who earlier contributed to the debate agreed that the monopoly of the cable TV providers must be blocked by amending areas of the principal Act that were currently being exploited by these companies.
“Because of the financial muscles of these companies, they take advantage of our laws and exploit our people. A situation where you can’t view certain programmes even on DSTV, let alone on other TV channels, if you don’t subscribe to the so-called premium bouquet, is highly exploitative; even when you don’t watch your TV, your money keeps running,” he added.
According to checks, DSTV’s premium bouquet, currently goes for N11,650.00 per month and has several channels as exclusive to premium subscribers. Other bouquets cost N7,500; N3,000; and N1,500, respectively.