By Kunle Adekoya

The Senate of countries  operating the presidential system of government usually is the higher law-making body of its bicameral legislature. The place where members sit to deliberate on issues before it is often called a hallowed chamber, both on account of the seriousness of issues before it and also because of the stature, experience and maturity of members.

The Senate as a body, and individual senators are expected to be above board in all matters particular, and must not be seen to engage or deal in frivolities.As in many things Nigerian, this seems not to be the case at the moment, as frivolous matters seem to be engaging the attention of our distinguished senators when juxtaposed against issues that are far more important.If our university system is lying comatose as a result of an ongoing ASUU strike, with counterpart unions like NASU and SSANU declaring warning strikes, should the Senate consider, let alone pass bills establishing six more universities, even if they are medical universities?

Has the Federal Government adequately and properly funded existing ones? Is funding not the main issue about ASUU strikes and other strikes?If that wasn’t bad enough, our Senate found time, yes, found time and energy to deliberate on pay-TV tariffs.

I am swamped. In a country where bandits are derailing trains and kidnapping people with reckless abandon, attacking airports, making highways unusable and killing people for sport, it is unfathomable how pay-TV tariffs could find its way to the order paper of the chamber.

With Nigerians virtually scavenging for food as prices shoot beyond the roofs into the sky and thence to outer space, is this the kind of thing that should engage the attention of our representatives? Add to that the lingering scarcity of petrol and diesel prices at more than triple what it was at the beginning of the year, and the ripple effects on the economy.

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, earlier in the week warned MultiChoice Nigeria not to dare Nigeria by going ahead to hike the tariffs of its products, while the matter was being investigated.

Lawan spoke at the inauguration of a committee of senators to look into the issue, which came up earlier following a motion by Senator Abba Moro. Much earlier, Multichoice, a leading pay-TV operator had announced an upward review of tariffs for bouquets on its platforms like DSTV and GoTV.  I wish Senator Moro had taken the trouble to avail himself of the situation of things in the pay-TV world before tabling his motion.

He must still be savouring his acquittal in an alleged fraud case, for which he’d been on trial for about seven years.First, pay-TV is not like ordinary television, where in-house producers package and produce programmes for broadcasting, as in NTA and other state-owned TV stations. Select programmes and events are procured from their owners, who charge a fee, which they then redistribute through their platforms using either DTT (Digital Terrestrial Transmission) or DTH (Direct to Home), which relies on satellite broadcast technology, with a mark-up. What pay-TV operators do is to invest in the technologies of delivery, which are transmitting stations and satellites.  

Second, pay-TV platforms like DSTV and StarTimes do not produce football events and other content that drive their sales.

For instance, the English Premier League followed by most football fans in our country and elsewhere is owned by the English Football Association, which sells broadcast rights to pay-TV operators for a fee. Same for Discovery, National Geographic, and others. Do Multichoice or StarTimes load cameras and go into forests to capture wildlife? No! Pay-TV operators are not ordinary television stations; they are better described as content aggregators.

In fact, there exists a broadcast operator, beIN, that has broadcast redistribution rights to major sporting events in about 185 countries, which it resells to pay-TV operators. Wonder why some pay-TV start-ups crashed out of the business? It’s not, as we say here, moin-moin  business! 

Then there is the issue of the connection between electricity and broadcast operations. Is there electricity in Nigeria? Is the Senate aware that this year, even radio stations broadcasting 24/7 have cut back, and now shut down a few hours to save costs on diesel? Can anybody plead ignorance of the fact that ours is a generator economy?Fourth, have our distinguished senators explored the linkage between fibre optics technology, broadcasting and telephony?

As we speak, just about 54,000 km of projected 216,00 0km of fibre cables have been laid nationwide, with Lagos and environs accounting for more than 80 per cent of that. If we actualise this, costs will come down a bit, even as fibre cuts occur daily through construction and mindless vandalism.

The last point I want to make about this issue is that pay-TV is, for now, a class thing in Nigeria. It is improbable that subscription will be a matter of must for a securityman, cleaner, or other common Nigerian.

Our people need security, food, potable water, affordable fuel and electricity, good roads, trains that don’t run out of fuel, and more.

What our senators should focus on is how to get the Executive arm, and it’s machine (the civil service) to shake off their lethargy and for once go to work on the wellbeing of fellow Nigerians.

What’s the Senators’ business with pay-TV?  Happy Easter,  Jumma Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem, dear all!

Vanguard News Nigeria

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