Groups reject bill to empower NBC to regulate DSTV and Startimes tariffs

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A bill to regulate the tariffs of digital satellite service providers was rejected Wednesday by several participants in the public hearing on the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), aims to give the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) the power to regulate the tariff charged by digital TV platforms.

The bill proposed that NBC “regulate and review through broadcast codes the tariff charged by digital satellite television services broadcasting in Nigeria and other subscription policies for subscribers.”

If passed, digital satellite service providers like DSTV, StarTimes, TSTV, GOTV and others will have their subscription fees regulated.

It was first introduced in the House on March 19, 2020 and was consolidated with other NBC bills on April 21, 2021.

Opposition

During the hearing organized by the House Committee on Information, Culture, Ethics and Values, the participants in the hearing spoke out against the bill.

The International Press Center (IPC) and the Center for Media Law and Advocacy opposed the bill. Their position was contained in a joint memorandum submitted to the committee.

Lanre Arogundade, executive director of IPC, who presented the group’s position at the hearing, said the industry is price sensitive and such regulations will keep investors away.

He also said that the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission already has responsibility for ensuring competition.

“The FCCPC is indeed more technically equipped to deal with the kinds of issues discussed here, being a specialized agency created for specific purposes.

“The arbitrary setting of tariffs could lead to excessive prices which could discourage investment in the sector and the resulting job losses.

“Giving NBC the exclusive right on tariff matters that cannot be changed could be interpreted as an exclusion clause which gives it arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in court,” he said.

Also speaking against the bill, Ataguba Raymond said price regulation would only work if there were subsidies for the industry.

“Price regulation will be relevant in a regime where there is a government subsidy so that participants in this sector can recover their expenses.

“Digital television is an entertainment service and the prices are very complex. People in this industry are very price sensitive because if you price too high, subscribers will not subscribe. Ultimately, it is the consumers who will suffer, the quality and quantity will suffer.

Previous investigations

In March, an ad hoc committee, chaired by Mr Idem, investigated MultiChoice, owners of digital satellite television (DSTV) and others for non-application of pay-per-view.

NBC was also called to the hearing, to address possible regulatory bottlenecks hampering the implementation of pay-per-view.

In September, the FCCPC also investigated Multichoice and Startimes TV for possible violation of consumer rights.

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