A quick memo to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Pay TV


By 10 a.m. tomorrow, an ad hoc committee of the Senate will deliberate on what appears to be one of the nation’s most important concerns. If we have failed to revamp God’s natural cosmology and tomorrow truly does come, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating pay-TV hikes and demand for a subscription-based TV model card, will meet key industry stakeholders by exploring opportunities to bring prices back to favorable levels.

The meeting is being held in Senate Conference Room 231, New Senate Building, National Assembly Complex, Abuja. The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, National Broadcasting Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Bureau of public companies, all pay TV operators are invited to this very important meeting. DSTV, TSTV, MYTV, OURTV, GOTV, Star Times, CSOs/NGOs with an interest in the subject, and the general public.

A rather full room. They will meet not to discuss other pressing issues like the ASUU strike for about seven months, lack of infrastructure including roads connecting states and even within states, failing aviation industry, insecurity – well, thank God for some humble accomplishments lately, inflation of over 20%, widespread desperation in the country and, in fact, a general lack of confidence in the current administration which has led to a mass exodus of our young people, but they will discuss the cost of pay TV and how to bring prices down so that Nigerians can enjoy a good diet of great TV programs. What an ingenious enterprise!

The Ministry of Information and Culture, which controls the fortunes of the broadcasting industry, was left out of the guest list. I hope that this unfortunate error will be corrected immediately.

If you’ve ever heard of the phrase, elite conspiracy, it’s a crying paradigm. Elites usually gathered to consider matters of immediate concern, either those that tickled their fancies or those that threatened their overbearing appropriation of the good life, and made decisions that generally excluded ordinary people. So in September 2022, while a majority of Nigerians are praying for the life of this administration to come to an ephemeral end, the Nigerian Senate is discussing Pay TV.

I consider it my unfortunate responsibility this morning to inform the Committee that when I last researched the pay TV subscription figure in Nigeria it was less than 7 million. If the figure were to rise to 10 million, it would still be less than 5% of the population, i.e. assuming that the population of Nigeria were to be 210 million. Tomorrow, the senatorial commission will meet to respond to the interests of a tiny part of the population. How dishonest at a time when the nation is looking for leaders to lift its people out of a seething cauldron, which lives daily in this part of the world.

How many times do we have to tell these lawmakers that the broadcasting industry has been deregulated since August 24, 1992? Executive Order 38 of 1992, now an Act of the National Assembly, the National Broadcasting Commission Act CAP N11, which deregulated the sector, also created the Commission to regulate the sector and issue licenses to broadcast operators. ‘industry. Even this law does not encourage the regulator to fix the prices of the products or programs broadcast, but to generally monitor the sector.

The law may have provided that in a free market economy, prices are left to market forces, until there is a gradual sedimentation, when those forces triumph.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Council (CCPC) Tribunal, chaired by Mr. Thomas Okosun, supports this view as it recently reminded some plaintiffs against Multichoice, accusing the operator of market dominance, that “Nigeria operates a free market economy,” adding that their argument on price regulation lacked merit. According to what is happening in the National Assembly, market forces may be too slow for their peace, so let’s do it Deus Ex machine way, let’s apply it!

Two major things are at stake here according to the announcement released by the Committee – cost and technology. The pay-TV industry is for deep-pocketed operators, not novices. Some facilities and operational elements – transponder space on the satellite, transmission equipment and programming are purchased in dollars. While the dollar has remained relatively stable, the naira is plummeting, which usually leads to an apparent increase in the cost of goods and services, just as a vehicle speeds by and makes the trees at the edge look like the road are in motion, while it is the vehicle that is moving while the trees are static. The Naira moved, weakening against the Dollar.

When it comes to technology, let me say here that competition will solve the problem. While we will want to explain that Pay-TV technology is totally different from GSM technology where an operator could easily introduce Pay As You Go services, the broadcasting technology remains a challenge, a small technical enigma to be solved.

Although technological neutrality remains a practical maxim for the regulator, I would like to reiterate that the competition in the pay television industry, which has since been introduced by the regulator, will resolve all lingering doubts, including the cost of products and services. Like GSM operators who have had to seek practical technologies to attract subscribers, pay-TV operators should be allowed to work on their business model to attract customers instead of being forced to do so.

It is not for legislators to tell an operator what technology to use to run a business, because they hardly know what operators know who informed their business model, and it is not in their place to impose a price in a free market economy because they know little or nothing about the cost elements that will determine pricing in a market such as pay-TV.

Pay TV is a premium package for the elites. Those who build the program packages have only one idea in mind: to reach the top of society and maintain their interests with tailor-made broadcasting services. Oh, that’s what they call market positioning? Such a design has very little room for feelings but strictly for business. Our legislators should know that.

But why should pay TV be the hottest item on lawmakers’ plates when the nation is nearly in tatters? Who wants to eat TV when hunger is raging? Who wants to watch television when this administration, under which they serve, has sabotaged the future of our children?

If they have so much love for the audiovisual industry, allow me to work out a little program for them to save a sector that may remain permanently stunted. Since it is their responsibility to make laws for the nation, lawmakers should urgently review the broadcasting law, remove the law and the regulator from the satanic grip of a sitting minister, who, in extreme cases, can issue emissions licenses above the regulator, review the board’s mandate in law, and create the ability for the regulator to produce the Nigeria Broadcasting Code without humiliating pressure. Their oversight function should cover flagship programs like Digital Switchover (DSO), and intellectually stimulating programs like Africast which has been neglected by this government. The Africast was once a flagship program of NBC, and for decades it has attracted broadcast experts – intellectuals, content creators and aggregators, and talent from every nation in the world. Africast has brought light and attention to our nation. But for now it’s dead!

With absolute respect, I wish to inform lawmakers of industry whispers. Some stakeholders believe tomorrow’s gathering is an orchestrated witch hunt against a particular operator, irritating clutter and unhealthy pressure that are, sadly, paradigmatic of the very reason companies are fleeing Nigeria. New businesses are not coming and those operating here on stilts are being pressured to leave through bogus inquisitions, multiple demands, levies and taxes by the various governments, communities and even local boys. Unfortunately, they find little coverage under the law. That’s a shame!

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