Bill seeking to remove monopoly currently enjoyed by foreign television cable channels operating in Nigeria and create a level playing field for all television stations to access and broadcast programmes have passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill titled 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 recognizing the role of foreign competition in Nigeria; was sponsored by Rep Aisha Dahiru Ahmed (PDP, Adamawa).
Rep Aisha while debating the general principles of the bill told members that a situation where the NBC would allow foreign television service providers to exclusively have access to certain programme contents for which Nigerians are exorbitantly charged is unacceptable; compare to the same companies operate elsewhere in Africa.
“Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, if the really the purpose of setting up the NBC was to break government monopoly in the broadcast industry as we had in the case of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as well as the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRNC) which monopolized the industry prior to the setting up of NBC in terms of signal transmission and information dissemination in Nigeria”.
“There is a new form of monopoly in the industry which is currently being enjoyed by some foreign television content providers, especially DSTV in the name of premium contents. With this new strategy, they have exclusive rights and access to popular programmes such as the English Premier League (EPL) the Spanish League (also known as La Liga) as well as reality TV shows of national and international followership; thereby raising their subscription values beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians”, she said.
Contributing to the debate, House Deputy Majority Leader, Rep Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) noted that; “this bill seeks to amend areas of the principal Act that are being exploited by foreign TV content providers to monopolise the airing of certain programmes. 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 the so-called premium bouquet is highly exploitative, even when you don’t watch your TV, your money keeps running”.
Robinson Uwak, (PDP, Akwa Ibom) was of the view that; “what our colleague has brought to our notice is the loopholes in our laws which allows foreign companies to take advantage of Nigerians in an exploitative manner. I support this bill that seeks to remove undue monopoly from the industry”.
Rep Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC Kano), while making a comparative analysis of price discrepancies in the fees charged by DSTV in Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, threw up the extent to which subscribers are being fleeced of their hard earned money in Nigeria.
Madaki pointed out that, “In Saudi Arabia for instance, the same DSTV we are talking about provides a well packaged product to subscribers. When you look the cost and the installation fee and covert to Saudi Riyadh charged for a year-long premium subscription including an HD decoder to naira, you would arrive at N50,000 for a whole year for a full package. But in Nigeria, you have to pay as much as N250,000 to procure an HD decoder with just three months subscription which is outrageous”.
The DSTV currently charges eleven thousand six hundred and fifty (N11,650.00) per month for premium bouquet which shows the EPL, La Liga, Serie A as well as other selected channels that are exclusive to premium subscribers.
There are other low cost bouquets which range from N7,500, N3,000, and N1,500 respectively. What is worthy of note in this subscription package is that, the subscriber does not have the right to select what channels he/she wants to subscribe even though the services are paid for.
After intensive deliberation the motion was unanimously adopted by the House and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Information and communication for further legislative input.