December 2, 2023

MultiChoice: TV Firm Chides NBC over Court Ruling

An indigenous pay cable television company, Metro Digital Limited, has decried the refusal of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to comply with the directive of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, asking it to address the firm’s complaints about a trade dispute between it and MultiChoice within 21 days.

The Court of Appeal had, on 13th July 2022 ruled in favour of Metro Digital in a case of cable TV channels licensing which it appealed against leading entertainment Company, MultiChoice.

The court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, presided over by Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe in the said ruling, said the failure of the NBC as a regulatory body to act on the complaint brought before it by Metro Digital amounts to a breach of its statutory duty; and directed the agency to commence the process of settling the dispute within 21-days.

But reading the text of a news briefing in Port Harcourt on Friday titled ‘Ending monopoly in broadcasting in Nigeria’, Managing Director of Metro Digital, Dr. Ifeanyi Nwafor, said as at the expiration of the 21-days directive given to the NBC, it had yet to hear from the federal government agency.

Nwafor said the company had made the outcome of the Appeal Court judgment available to NBC without response as of the time of the briefing.

He said, “The NBC is yet to reach us, and the 21-day directive, I think, expired a few days ago. But we are working with the federal government to ensure that NBC listens to us.”

He warned that if NBC continued to delay in carrying out its responsibilities, following the court’s directive, it would take appropriate steps within the law to tackle the matter head-on.

While noting that the Nigerian Broadcasting industry was facing various challenges inhibiting its growth and development since its inception, Nwafor added that it suffers from a lack of competition, exclusivity in content acquisition, channels warehousing, and monopoly from the dominant market player.

“This practice has made Nigeria the highest subscription paying country for pay TV the world over. Operators in the industry, usually local operators who lack the muscle, are stifled and choked to death,” he explained.

Nwafor further said local pay television firms belonging to the Association Cable Operators of Nigeria have all died due to their inability to cope with unhealthy business practices in the Nigerian broadcasting space.

“Also, the death of these companies led to thousands of job losses across the country,” he added.

Nwafor lauded the federal government for its effort to end monopoly by introducing the Nigeria Broadcasting code to provide a level playing field for all industry operators.

“We believe that with the end of monopoly, the industry will grow exponentially with lots of innovations. Many jobs will be created. Prices will come down for the Nigerian public, Quality of service delivery will improve due to the new-found competition.

“The United States, with a population of 350 million, has more than 400 viable pay-tv companies. There is no reason why Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, should have only one or two,” the Metro Digital MD stated.

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