Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Can Osinbajo bring lasting peace to broadcasting?

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By Okoh Aihe

There is hardly any homogeneity between khaki (military) and Agbada (civilian). That is why anyone with a respect for ancestry and memory of the country’s history will confess that the relationship has gone no better than a poisoned chalice.

With the premise of the above, it will not be unreasonable to suggest that, in addition to being initially baffled by the union of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to stand for election as president and vice president of Nigeria, It is possible That many people have relaxed enough with the refreshing thoughts that SAN can introduce the malleable manageability of the rule of law to military prowess or even the stubbornness of the general.

So when things happen in our nation now, the first question they ask is: Where is Osinbajo? People expect me to do magic. I also hope it does. But we always forget that he is not the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation.

He is a professional who enjoys a higher calling in the political ecosystem and may even be as trapped as we are or even more trapped. But you can’t blame us for expecting too much from a government that promised us the stars!

Since the self-inflicted controversy of the sixth edition of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) with the remote imprimatur of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, some stakeholders have asked the same question;

perhaps for two reasons: the first is that he is a scholarly scholar at the top level of government, so matters of scholarship should stop at his table, and the second is that he comes from the same source as Mohammed, the Bola Tinubu stable , and therefore you should be able to put a leash on your old colleague.

We don’t have to wait forever. He spoke last week, according to media reports. During a session with Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for Policy and Communications, Osinbajo dropped the hint that the controversies generated by the new Code would mean that the government has to review the matter as urgently as possible.

The life cycle of the Code is approximately four years, but is subject to review within the period. In addition, the Code is an industry document that must capture the aspirations and expectations of industry operators. It is at Osinbajo’s place to assure the local and international community that the Nigerian government has not fallen asleep while allowing problems that can affect performance in the business environment to escalate.

Among the standout topics are the regulation of content exclusivity and the fine of N5m for hate speech instead of N500,000, while a third, which is strange but very underground, is the independence of the regulatory agency.

“Basically, it says that if you have a licensed TV product, you are expected to share it with other platforms. It is one that I understand the argument of those who say that this is a violation of copyright and intellectual property, which is a very strong point and so we have to take a second look and see if there are ways to moderate it to be more acceptable so as not to stifle the work of hard-working creative people, ”reports The Eagle Online, quoting Osinbanjo.

It will be pertinent to add here that even within NBC, there was a split down the middle. The Board headed by former Communications Minister Alhaji Ilkra Aliyu Bilbis joined the fray when it accused the minister, Alhaji Mohammed, of being the one pulling all the strings and thus denying the regulator the opportunity to function independently. Unfortunately, that voice has been silenced because the NBC Act attributes too little power and responsibilities to the Board.

Let’s try to make some sense of this. Under Composition of the Board, the Law says: (4) The president and the members of the Commission shall be part-time members. During the mandate, etc. (1) The president and the other members of the Commission shall hold office for three years, renewable for an additional period of three years only.

The lesson to follow is that NBC is not set up to have a stable Board. The term of three years for the Board and even part-time is short and fragile and can expose the members to the omnipotence of a minister appointed supreme by law. Only a politician with a heart of gold will not exploit such latitude, and there are not many in this dispensation.

Another sister agency also established in 1992, like NBC, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) cannot stand such fickleness. The term of the 9-member Board of Commissioners is five years and is renewable for another term by the President. There are two executive commissioners whose appointment is permanent along with the executive director or executive vice president.

This has ensured a certain level of stability on the Board and, at the same time, has provided an unlimited opportunity for executive commissioners to contribute to the development of the telecommunications industry without a busy minister breathing on their shoulders, especially if they are elected by merits, based on sound. knowledge of the sector.

Here is a point of emphasis. If the government considers a revision of the Code, it should also make a total cleanup of the entire Law a priority to strengthen its performance. As it stands, the document is too weak for a historic performance in an industry in perpetual motion due to new technologies.

Let me also quickly point out here that the broadcast industry at the moment is too fractured for significant growth and development. There is the Ministry and NBC on one side and there are others fighting to be heard; They include: Nigerian Broadcasting Organization (BON), Nigerian Independent Broadcasting Association (IBAN), Nigerian Cable Television Association, Nigerian Licensed STB Manufacturers Association (STBMAN) and a few others not listed here.

There are many stakeholders in the industry with disparate voices and varied views of their sector. It is my humble suggestion that their voices and views be considered and harmonized in order to strengthen the industry.

I am particularly concerned about a document published by cable television operators whose definition of exclusivity, in short, is a monopolistic practice to exclude local cable television operators from the industry and, in fact, completely eliminate them even when subscribers they are downtrodden with convoluted underwriting fees. .

While trying to reinforce the argument that what is stated in Article 6. 2.5 in the new Code is not really new, a voice told this writer with emotion that local operators have been routed from the television sector by cable and they really need to be given a shred of life by the government.

I am used to these stories. However, the truth is that something must be done with the broadcasting industry, especially with cable television and DSTV services. This requires Prof. Osinbajo to move quickly to curb mistrust and bleeding. There must be peace for the industry to prosper.

There is something wrong at this time. I am suggesting that to usher in detente, the regulator should convene a large stakeholder meeting in which the various parties will be encouraged to look at their positions in a meaningful way and also to make suggestions. Cable television operators are too infinitesimal in their approach to business operations in a cash-intensive industry.

While suggesting that they change their approach, it is the responsibility of the government to devise very creative ways to support their operations and, for once, to encourage Nigerian business entities to become large companies and strong groups.

While we have always proclaimed the strength of our economy, which is smoke that evaporates in the face of reality, sometimes it is important to endure the insipidity of a humble cake and discover how other African countries are doing, sending business to other territories. including ours, although with green eyes, we complain bitterly about internal colonization.

The struggle for dominance in any business sector would normally hurt the weak and also those in an imperial position. As the fight continues, all matches bleed, there is atrophy, and returns become anemic in the record books.

For example, while Uber China spent a hefty sum of $ 1 billion a year to fight its competition, Didi Chuxing, the union of the two organizations in 2016 created a $ 35 billion deal.

My humble appeal is that operators of this streaming genre shouldn’t see pleasure or death in the eyes of a competitor, but should look well and closely enough to see the advantage in those crafty eyes that can create great industry and generous returns.

And also remember, it makes a lot of sense to have a small part of a large business that is doing well than to have an entire business burdened with inefficiency and crippling debt.

Okoh Aihe writes from Abuja

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