The Punch reports that the House of Representatives moved on Tuesday to contain the “arbitrary” subscription rates charged by Multichoice for its Digital Satellite Television services in the country. The House observed that high pricing by Dstv had made access to its “premium” programming difficult for the majority of Nigerians. It also noted that lack of competition in the digital satellite broadcast industry had encouraged a monopoly giving firms such as Multichoice the “undue advantage” of blocking the efforts of other firms to enter the market and crash prices.
Lawmakers particularly opposed a “rigid” subscription policy that permanently billed subscribers “whether they are at home viewing programmes or not.” A bill to stop such stranglehold on the industry passed second reading at the House on Tuesday. The bill, which was sponsored by a member from Adamawa State, Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Modibbo, sought to amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act to guarantee openness and competition in the industry.
The long title of the bill reads, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act to Provide for Competition in Nigeria, to Promote Efficiency and Expand Opportunities for Participation of Nigerians in World Markets, while at the same time recognising the Role of Foreign Competition in Nigeria and for other Matters Related thereto.”
Leading the debate on the bill, Dahiru-Modibbo said while Nigeria was not against foreign participation in the local economy but such involvement should not be to the detriment of Nigerians. She noted that there were indigenous firms which could also render premium satellite broadcast programming to Nigerians, but complained that “deliberate actions” by monopolies stifled the firms.
“In every country, measures are taken to protect the people. “What is happening to us in Nigeria does not happen elsewhere on the continent. “It is high time our regulatory body, the NBC was positioned to protect Nigerians from this arbitrary actions,” she stated.
The House Deputy Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, wondered why Nigeria, one of the countries with the largest subscriber base of Dstv services, hardly received the kind of “subscriber-friendly offers” that were offered to the citizens of other African countries.
“You have a situation in the telecommunications industry, for example, where you are billed as you go or use your mobile phones. “You pay for what you use. We should be having pay as you view or watch as well. “Why should Nigerians continue to pay for Dstv services whether they are at home using the service or not?” Ogor asked.
He cited Kenya as one of the countries that had taken measures to contain the excesses of Dstv and other foreign digital satellite TV service providers. Seasoned broadcaster and Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, lent her voice to the debate, supporting a call for more subscriber-friendly pricing in Nigeria.
Long overdue, abi?