How non-compliance to licence renewal costs NBC billions

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With a broadcast renewal fee of about N1 million a year, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) may be losing a lot to non-compliance in the payment by many stations. In March last year, NBC’s Director General, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, had stated that stations across the country owed NBC over N5 billion and that the commission would revoke the licenses of 120 stations that had paid their fees but were unable to come on air.

“Even the statutory act of informing NBC six months before expiration of licenses and signification of intention to continue as licensees is willfully ignored by stations,” Kawu had lamented. “License fees are in arrears; there is no plan by many of these stations to pay while some even have the temerity to write NBC, the regulatory institution, that the amount they are obliged to pay is too much. Consequently, they then tell us how much they are willing to pay, and even adding the time they are going to pay such sums that they have decided to pay.”

However, The Guardian recently spoke with Director, Broadcast Monitoring at NBC, Dr. Armstrong Idachaba, on the issue, who said by law, once a license was issued and failed to put to use within 24 months, “it is deemed to have elapsed, the frequency returns to government and the Federal Government can re-issue it to any other interested party.

“The loss is for those who fail to utilize the license they acquired; we ensure full payment of license before we give the frequency. Over the years, we issued licenses on zonal basis but the licensing structure has been adjusted. Initially, stations are licensed to operate on zonal basis covering between five to seven states but we discovered that this was limiting participation and now came up with a policy, which allows stations to operate on city basis.

“Therefore, if you are given a radio license now, you are compelled to operate within a particular city. For instance, if you are on 96.2FM and you are in the southeast, rather than cover Aba, Imo, Owerri, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi, you can now have different radio stations in that frequency operating in various cities instead of one station occupying that frequency across the eastern region.”

Idachaba further noted that there were some licenses yet to come on stream, especially in the area of Pay TV, adding, “We licensed about 17 indigenous companies, and some attempted to come on stream but did not survive. You could remember Hi TV, which was a success story at a point but did not survive.

“In the area of Direct To Home Pay TV, most of them are not operational due to high level of competition and you know premium content is what drives it and that may have been a challenge. In the area of open terrestrial television, there are really not many TV licenses that are not on air yet; the same as radio. Instead, what we have now is an increasing desire by Nigerians.”

Also lending his voice was Assistant Director, Legal, to the Commission, Barr. George Obi, who stated, “We have suspended the grant of license for terrestrial television due to radiation except for satellite. As for satellite TV, the problem is that most of them come into the business without doing a thorough study. For terrestrial, you may have about 10 stations that have licenses they are not using.  Before 2015, the highest approval we ever got was 38; it was in 2015 that we had above 100. Before that period, we used to get 10-15 approvals. The ones that did not come on air before they elapsed were about five licenses.”

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