June 23, 2024

Re: Multichoice Nigeria: A legacy of Monopoly and Non-transparency


My attention has been drawn to a publication on page 21 of the Vanguard newspaper of June 13 2024 credited to one Jacob Agunbiade on behalf of ‘’Association for the Defense of the Nigerian economy’’ in response to my Advertorial published in the Vanguard newspaper of Thursday, 6 June 2024 on the subject matter, ‘’Multichoice Nigeria: A legacy of monopoly and non-transparency’’.

The writer claimed that his intention was to review the advertorial against the true position of things in the Broadcast industry in Nigeria.

It is not my wish to delve into whether Multichoice Nigeria is the biggest investor in the entertainment industry in Nigeria. Huge investment is expected for a company that has monopolized the broadcast industry in Nigeria for more than three decades, and making it impossible for other operators to come in and compete on a level playing field through unfair market practices like exclusivity and content warehousing. 

Stating the truism that Multichoice shows disregard for regulatory compliance, lack of transparency and indulges in monopolistic practices does not constitute a call to Nigerians to hate Multichoice. The activities of any organization will make the host community to like it or not especially if the activities of the organization are those that impoverish the people given prevalent economic realities.

Rather than formulate new policies and strategies that will change the orientation of Multichoices’ penchant for  not allowing competition through anti competition behavior, the writer went wild chasing shadows and playing the ostrich when he chronicled Startimes, Qatari Broadcasters and Bein without any Local operator in the list. Are indigenous pay TV organizations forbidden from participation in the pay TV industry in Nigeria? The world over it is indigenous players that take forefront in the Broadcast industry. I countries like South Africa, you cannot have a significant control of a broadcasting organization unless you are a citizen.

Jacob Agunbiade sought to know how I arrived at the humongous N30B loss to the Federal government on account of Multichoices’ failure to remit the require 2.5 percent of their gross annual income to the NBC. The answer is that Multichoice should avail the National Broadcasting Commission and indeed the Nigerian tax authorities her data base showing the number of subscribers it has in Nigeria and how much they pay in subscription on a monthly basis according to the number of bouquets it offers.   

N30b is a conservative estimate. You can be sure that the figure may double or quadruple if the data base is made available. This the simple computational method, mr Jacob Agunbiade and your ‘ Association for the defense of the Nigerian economy’’.

Jacob Agunbiade, I urge you to show proof of organizations that do not pay the annual levy if you really belong to the Association for the defense of the Nigeria economy as you claim. Such proof will help improve the revenue generation of the Nigerian economy.

Without conceding that Multichoice pays annual levy which far outstrips the totality of annual levies paid by the entire broadcast industry, this immodest claim is a pointer that other participants in the industry are struggling for survival from the dominant market player. The writer claimed that neither the 5th nor the 6th NBC provided its intended definition of income leaving room for contestations over whether is turnover or revenue minus cost of production which puts a bold question mark on the fidelityof the N30B quoted by the advertorial. This may be a clear case of one writing for pecuniary interest only.   

I therefore refer you, Jacob Agunbiade to page 48, section 2.10 of the Nigeria Broadcasting decode 6th edition on submission of annual accounts and remittance, number B which states thus: ‘’ the annual income referred to in ‘’a’’ above shall be gross annual income’’. this is a class A offence that would require revocation or withdrawal of a broadcaster’s licence by the NBC.

FOR the avoidance of doubt, I fully aware as many Nigerians are too that an indigenous pay Tv company took Multichoice to court over neglect and non compliance with the provisions of the Nigeria broadcasting code relating to content sub-license and secured judgement in its favour from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Is it what you refer to as piracy? The last time I searched  Google, the meaning of piracy has not changed. Since, your intention was to review the advertorial against the true position of things in the industry in Nigeria, I expected you say whether your paymasters submit their content acquisition contract documents to the NBC as required by law to determine pricing by various inputs.

The answer is no.  You are aware that pricing is determined by various inputs, including domestic economic dynamics. What domestic economic dynamics make the services of your paymasters hardly affordable by a majority of Nigerians. How much your paymasters paid to acquire international sporting and other rights should be made known to the regulatory authority as a requirement of the law.

The regulatory authorities should check if the paid by the Nigerian subsidiary to the South African parent is set in such a way that no profit is reported thereby depriving the federal government of Nigeria the much needed revenue from taxes and fees.

Acquiring contents on the basis of exclusivity is illegal in the broadcast industry in Nigeria. This has remained a major tool used to stifle competition thereby making it impossible to create any bouquet of interest that can attract subscribers. Multichoice makes use of its deep pocket to acquire local and foreign contents exclusively thereby foreclosing the market thereby making it difficult for modest organizations to cope. Jacob Agunbiade, mentioning Startimes as having acquired the German league and Bundesliga vis-a-vis Multichoices’ tight hold on the English Premiership league and the Champions league on exclusivity basis for many decades, is to say the least, comparing a mere stink with rotten egg. A very feeble comparison indeed.

Law and order provide guide and direction for peace and harmony in both public and private lives. Without law and order anarchy thrives and survival of the fittest becomes the order of the day. Jacob Agunbiade should inform those whose proxy he is, that a law does not have to be favorable before it is obeyed.   One can act as one likes if there are no laws in place for it takes an outlaw not to be law abiding and it is dangerous for society.

The long hold on the broadcast industry in Nigeria by a single organization for many decades has given it a false sense of entitlement and the consequence is ligation against government agencies and flagrant disobedience to laws and court orders.     

I maintain that NBC should be have unfettered access to the financial records of all broadcasters to ensure that the statutory fees of 2.5% are calculated based a credible gross income. This is the only way to conclusively determine if the alleged 30 billion Naira debt owed to NBC is correct or not. It will also tell us if Multichoice is leveraging the power of monopoly to overcharge Nigerians for paytv services.

In fact for me, NBC being the regulator should ban MultiChoice from operations until it complies.  This is the penalty for non-compliance stipulated in the NBC code.

By Suleman Saki, 

Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja