NBC Code: Amendments of the 6th edition
Written by Demilade Onajobi
The Nigeria Broadcasting Code is a set of provisions, standards to monitor and ensure the compliance of all stakeholders in the Broadcast industry. Recently, an amendment was made to the 6th edition of the Code and was released on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
According to the Commission, the new amendments were meant to protect and promote the local broadcast industry from monopolistic and anti/competitive behavior. To increase advertising revenue for local broadcasting stations and content producers in the Broadcast industry in Nigeria
The new amendments, however, have been received with a lot of complaints from a handful of the stakeholders, tagging it unenforceable. In my opinion, there won’t be a need for an ironclad amendment dubbed for promoting equity for local content and local content producers if all the stakeholders over time have displayed fairness and equity in local content production and distribution. In the past, broadcasters struck deals in ways that profited a few and not in the interest of many, all stating the strength of negotiating power. Broadcasters hold licenses for different programs, sometimes over a cluster of countries without sub-licensing it to the local broadcasters, which guaranteed revenue for them but also creates an unfair advantage in the process. This unfair market advantage over other local broadcasters is what led to the provisions in this new amendment. The amendment is meant to increase the competitiveness of local content, but some say it has finally eroded the said competitiveness. Broadcasting is dynamic, and so is the challenge of putting regulations around it.
Let’s have a quick dive into the new provisions that are worthy of note and some of the analysis:
Under Web/Online Broadcasting:
All persons who wish to operate web/online broadcasting service in Nigeria shall be registered with the Commission.
The question here is, whether the commission categorizes Youtube, IG and other social sites, podcasts, and internet radio as part of the broadcasting channels that are required to register as a broadcaster with the commission.
Under this same section — International Broadcast Signals (code 2.12.8)
International Broadcasters transmitting signals into the Nigerian territory shall take cognizance of Nigeria’s broadcast laws and international principle of reciprocity.
It is safe to say this section covers for internet radio and others but what is unclear is the extent to which they will have observe the Nigerian broadcast laws.
Definition of local content
For a program to qualify as local content, its conceptualization, production, target audience which in every case should be Nigeria, must satisfy the provision under the character of local content as defined under section 3.15.
The producer of the programme is or their producers of the programme who is responsible for creative control, monitoring, and decision making pertaining to the programme are Nigerians residing in Nigeria.
This is what classifies a program as local content.
Under Sport Right
Broadcasters shall uphold the principles of fairness in the acquisition of sports rights and coverage. Furthermore, in the acquisition of sports rights (code 6.2), it states that Nigeria shall not be bundled up in the same basket with other countries in the sale of football rights.
This provision breaks the kind of deal Multichoice has been making over the years with the various European football leagues which discourage local participation in obtaining sports rights.
To ensure fair and effective competition on all platforms at an agreed fee, rights owners to Live Foreign Sporting Events shall offer the rights to Broadcast on the different platforms stated below:
- Satellite [DTH]
- Multipoint Microwave Distribution System [MMDS]
- Cable [Fibre Optics]
- DTT [Terrestrial]
- Internet Protocol Television [IPTV]
Separating the rights for the different platforms will give a fair playing ground for broadcasters on all platforms and will not make the price of acquiring the rights be unduly pressured by big players on other platforms.
According to code 6.28, In the broad national interest, the exclusivity of sporting rights in Nigeria is prohibited. What worthy of note here is, no broadcaster will have the exclusive right to broadcast sport or acquiring the rights without using them.
To support and ensure the growth of local sports content, no prime foreign sports content shall be transmitted in the Nigerian territory unless the owner of such content has also acquired prime local sports content of the same category with a minimum of 30% of the cost of acquiring the foreign sports content.
The only challenge with this provision is that it assumes the availability of various categories of local sports content and in good quality to have justified the purchase for not less than 30% of the cost of foreign sports content.
Under Wholesale Offer [code 9.1.8]
The NBC can compel any broadcaster in the industry to license its broadcasting and/or signal right in any genre of programming to another licensee or broadcaster in Nigeria if the following circumstances are present:
- If the genre of programme(s) enjoys compelling viewership by Nigerians.
- It relates to a product or service that is objectively necessary to be able to compete effectively on a downstream market.
The commission, however, in order to invoke the power in this section will make an assessment whether competitors can create an alternative service or effectively supply, which would be capable to be disposed in the downstream market.
Under National Emergencies
A new provision on a mandatory allotment for national emergencies has been made. It states that “The private/commercial broadcasters shall ensure that it allot a minimum of 20% of weekly broadcast hours to public service programmes on emergencies, current trends, and issues”.
As much as this amendment seems like an affront on broadcasters in the Nigerian Broadcast industry, it must be seen for what it is, it opens the market up for local participation in the industry and if the commission does not use its power to overly subdue broadcasters to its whims, the outcome will have a lot of good effect on the industry and the economy as a whole.
Demilade Onajobi is a Business Analyst and Business Developer with multiple consulting stints at boutique consulting firms as an Independent Associate. He has worked as a team member and lead for advisory and execution projects, including growth plan, product development, strategy document, etc.