The proposed rates regulations for satellite television in the new National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act modification bill have been criticised by the International Press Centre (IPC) and civil society organisations (CSOs). Stakeholders expressed their opinions at a public hearing on a bill to alter the NBC Act held by the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Values on Wednesday in Abuja.
In a presentation titled “NBC’s Independence/Depoliticized Licensing Process, Industry-Sensitive Pricing System, Promotion of Inclusivity, and Checking Arbitrariness,” Mr Lanre Arogundade, executive director of IPC, stated that arbitrary tariff fixing could lead to excessive pricing, which could discourage investment in the sector and result in job losses. He went on to say that providing NBC sole authority over tariff matters, which cannot be disputed in court, might be regarded as an ouster clause, granting it arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in court.
The NBC Act amendment bill’s proposed tariff usurps the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act’s (FCCPC Act) function. Arogundade lamented that the NBC currently operates as an island unto itself, stating that it is frequently the accused, prosecutor, and judge in its case. According to Dr Akin Akingbulu, executive director of the Institute for Media and Society, the NBC Act’s most glaring flaw today is its failure to provide for the regulating body’s independence. Lack of autonomy manifests itself in various ways, including skewed decision-making, inconsistent regulatory attention, inability to protect the industry and develop its professionalism, failure to meet international standards, and, as a result, failure to fulfil its mission.
Mr Emmanuel Ataguba, speaking on behalf of Ataguba and Ataguba Solicitors, said that the purpose of this amendment is to regulate and control pricing for the benefit of Digital Satellite Television Services consumers, contrary to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act’s goal. Which aims to “defend and promote consumer interests and welfare by offering consumers with a greater range of high-quality items (and services) at competitive costs.” He stated that he does not believe that price regulation would benefit consumers but that price regulation may be relevant in public services where government subsidies are involved.