A United Kingdom-based communication consultant, Dr. Opeyemi Erinfolami, has described the provision on exclusivity in the new National Broadcasting Code as a product of ignorance. The code, produced by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), was launched in Lagos last week by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Erinfolami, who made his views known in a series of tweets, said what the NBC has done is akin to plucking a regulatory provision from the air.
Speaking on the provisions of the code affecting the broadcast of foreign football matches, which mandate rights holder to sub-license to other broadcasters, the communication expert explained that the drafters of the NBC Code have shown unfamiliarity with how the broadcast rights to England’s Premier League (PL) are bought and sold.
“Those provisions, in the main, are targeted at PL broadcast rights because the league is popular in Nigeria and they are based on poor understanding of the rights acquisition process. The NBC is cannot control rights it didn’t pay for. It can only determine how what it paid for is used, not what others have,” he said.
Erinfolami further explained that rights to the games of the PL are not necessarily sold as a whole to broadcasters. The rights, he said, are usually sold packages, with those sold to satellite broadcasters different from those sold to broadcasters on other platforms.
In what was a surprise, Erinfolami claimed that fans of the PL in Nigeria have access to many more games than fans in the United Kingdom.
“In the UK, games aren’t broadcast live between 2pm and 6pm, as this will be a disincentive for fans to the stadiums to watch matches. If that was not the case, the stadiums would be empty and such will rob the clubs of revenue gate receipts,” he explained.
He described NBC’s claim that it introduced exclusivity provisions to counter monopoly as a pretext to fight certain broadcasters.
“I visit Nigeria regularly and I’m familiar with the local broadcast industry. It is clear that they have something against the biggest industry player, which they consider a monopoly. But I tell you that what the NBC will do with the code is to rob the industry of plurality.
The release of the proposed amendment to the code in May attracted multidimensional criticisms, with investors in local content production, advertising industry figures and writers describing it as a tyrannical regulatory framework. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, famously described it as economic sabotage. The criticisms have been unabating, with former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Professor Tony Iredia, accusing the Information Minister of unilaterally directing the operations of the NBC. Particularly irksome to Iredia and many others is the hate speech provision in the code.
The provision prescribes a fine of N5million for defaulters. Iredia argues that the parameters of hate speech have not been neatly spelt out; saying the portion on hate speech is open to abuse.