Experts react to NBC decision to curb monopolies in broadcast industry

By Zion Rufus

The federal government’s decision to put an end to the era of monopolizing the broadcast space by bigger players in the industry at the expense of the growth and development of the local industry has generated some mixed reactions and controversies.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed disclosed that the government has deliberately carried out an unprecedented reform of the broadcasting industry and amendment to the NBC Code for some of these reasons, chief amongst them are: to create an enabling environment for the Digital Switch Over to succeed; for local content to thrive; for indigenous producers to be more engaged; and for the local advertising market to grow.

Commenting on this development during an industry conversation on Marketing Edge on TV, TVC Commercial Director, Ronan Redmond said: “Broadly, I think they are trying to protect all of us in the industry and that is to be welcomed. In my personal opinion, I wouldn’t agree with it because it suggests some kind of protectionism. I wouldn’t be in favor of protectionism because I don’t think protectionism always works, I believe companies like TVC Communications need to be competitive, we need to fight whatever threats are out there, I’m not asking the federal government to prohibit the other players coming in into this market, I’m asking them to take a more mature view of what happens in the marketplace.”

In April, the federal government inaugurated the Digital Switch Over and the launch of set-top boxes in Lagos with 30 free-to-air stations as part of its long-anticipated digital switchover (DSO) program.
GoTV and StarTimes have been directed to stop self-carriage by the end of June 2021. The monopolies exclude many Nigerians from enjoying or having access to premium content, especially in the area of sports and movies. With the amendment to the Code, anyone owning any sports rights must make such available to other parties in Nigeria, who may be interested in acquiring these rights. This obviously extends the opportunity for TV sports content to indigenous players.

According to the Minister the amendments were necessitated by the need to boost the local content in Nigeria, curb anti-competitive and monopolistic tendencies and boost advertising revenues. We have amended the Code to curb monopoly and exclusivity of programme content in order to create room for the local industry to grow. For example, the Pay TV sector of the Broadcast Industry has been controlled by foreign interests, while indigenous efforts to compete have been frustrated or weakened by the established control of the big monopolies. Because we know that there is a nexus between those reforms and the success of the DSO.

“My fear with something like this is you frighten away a lot of those big brand advertisers; the big multinationals and they form an important part of the business here as well. If they feel it is too difficult to do business in Nigeria and they move away, well that’s a negative. There’s plenty of other things I believe the federal government could be doing to try and help grow the local industry, it doesn’t have to prohibit the international players,” Redmond said.

PR and Communications expert, Odion Aleobua has described the transition as an exciting prospect and a massive pivotal shift for the television audience in Nigeria as it will boost the provision of content and increase channel choices for viewers.

Aleobua who is also the CEO of Modion Communications, one of Nigeria’s leading Public Relations and Communications solutions agencies said: “For us, the players in the creative and PR space, we would accurately plan with actual viewership data and determine which platform offers our clients the best brand exposure opportunity. The distinction will ultimately be the platform that offers the most compelling and relatable content. Nigerians are ready, for instance, to pay to have the Premier League football live in the homes. We have also witnessed free access TV whose programmes did not hit mainstream status due to poor viewership. The competition is good, and the capability to accurately measure ratings would drive the appropriate allocation of the advertising Naira to either the FreeTv or PayTV platforms,” the CEO continued.”

On the other hand, TVC Commercial Director Ronan Redmond explained that there are several ways that the federal government can proactively help the advertising and creative industry without being necessarily prohibitive.
He stated: “Investment is one, funding of the creative arts, looking at tax incentives for people who are spending big on advertising, tax incentives for people who are showing incremental growth on year on year, investing in new talents and research, and perhaps funding for that big research body of work that needs to happen in conjunction with DSO.”



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