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Published On: Tue, Jul 7th, 2020

FG writes off 60% debt of broadcast stations nationwide

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• Debtor stations to pay 40% of burden in 3 months
• Says talks ongoing on succour for print media

By our correspondent

The Federal Government yesterday announced the cancellation of sixty percent (60%) of the total debts owed it by terrestrial radio and television stations operating in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the breakdown at a press conference in Abuja yesterday regarding the Interventions by the FG to ensure sustainability among broadcast stations in the country to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on broadcast business..
The Minister also said that discussions are ongoing with stakeholders in the print media to extend a similar gesture to them. The minister addressed the press along with the acting Director General of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba.
The Minister said the FG’s decision to grant the debt forgiveness to broadcast stations followed the recommendation of the management of the NBC, and that the following measures have been approved to revamp the Broadcast Industry and to help reposition it for the challenges of business, post-Covid-19:
A 60 percent debt forgiveness for all debtor broadcast stations in the country; The criterion for enjoying the debt forgiveness is for debtor stations to pay 40 percent of their existing debt within the next 3 months;
Any station that is unable to pay the balance of 40 percent indebtedness within the 3 months window shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness;
The existing license fee is further discounted by 30 per cent for all Open Terrestrial Radio and Television services effective July 10th, 2020;
The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional licensed Terrestrial Radio and Television stations only;
The debt forgiveness and discount shall not apply to pay TV service operators in Nigeria, and;
The effective date of the debt forgiveness shall be July 10th 2020 to October 6th, 2020.
The minister said the Federal Government has made these interventions with a view to re-positioning the Broadcast Industry to play its critical role of promoting democracy and good governance in Nigeria. “It is our expectation that the sector will cash in on this unique opportunity to make itself an effective catalyst for national development,: he said.
He recalled the position of the NBC that many Nigerian radio and television stations remain indebted to the Federal government to the tune of 7 billion Naira in total. He added that many of the stations are faced with the reality that their licenses will not be renewed, in view of their indebtedness.
He said the decision to grant the waiver is because the broadcast stations, though largely a business, continues to function as a critical social service of sorts, which is relevant to the information and enlightenment needs of the people.
The goal, he said, is to ensure financial sustainability among broadcast stations in the country.
“These measures are in addition to the two-month license-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations in the country by the NBC, as part of efforts to ease the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Broadcast Industry,” the minister said.
“ As you know, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of the nation’s economy. The Broadcast Industry has been particularly hard-hit due to falling revenues occasioned by the dwindling adverts and sponsored programmes, in the wake of the pandemic.
“ Indeed, on 6 May 2020, I received the officials and other representatives of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), who made a comprehensive presentation on the effects of the pandemic on the industry and sought critical interventions by Federal and State Governments.
“The Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry, which we set up to help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on the Creative Industry as a whole, has submitted its report, which contained recommendations that will benefit all component parts of the larger Creative Industry.”
On the plan to extend similar gesture to the print media, the minister noted that engagements are still ongoing with the critical stakeholders in the print industry, adding that certain documents have been requested from the operators of the print media in furtherance of the discussions.
He said his office is working with the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele in respect of the discussions.
He said the goal of the discussion is the same as that of the Broadcast media, which is to stabilize the operations of the media industry.
In his comment, Professor Idachaba said the overall aim of the reform of the broadcast industry is to ensure productivity within the framework of government guidelines.

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