When the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently visited the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) House in Lagos, his declared intention was to reaffirm his commitment to the creative sector while protecting the rights of the stakeholders. But the visit is a proof that good intentions are not enough, creative people long for more. The social media was set ablaze by a statement credited to the Minister that very soon, all Nigerian music videos and films shot abroad by Nigerian producers will not be aired in Nigeria by the powers vested in the Nigerian broadcasting code.
Popular artists such as P-square, Jude Okoye, Yemi Alade, Ruggedman, amongst others reacted immediately. They kicked against the idea, insisting that the code will affect the industry negatively as the country currently lacks the right infrastructure for world-class video shoot. Some of the artists even went to the length of referring to the medical tourism boom amongst serving public officials, citing it as an example of why ban on foreign video production will not be a fair adjudication of justice or right-thinking.
The artists seemed to be missing one point in this whole argument, which is the fact that for the first time in a long while, the country has a minister of Information and Culture who is deeply interested in the affairs of the creative people. For one, he is the first minister to visit the COSON House. Also he puts the creative people all under an umbrella, to deliberate and chart new paths for the sector which is the most probable source of revenue generation after crude oil. Prior to the two-day conference held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, the Minister gathered a handful of creative industry people to a creative roundtable in Lagos in anticipation of the larger conference. Parts of the issues discussed are how creative people can have access to finance, work with regulatory institutions, benefit from government incentives, and secure the enforcement of laws protecting intellectual property. It was not a surprise that he was awarded “Copyright Medal of Honour”.
Asides the controversial broadcasting code, the Minister declared that efforts are geared to give the industry a pioneer status so it can qualify for such incentives as tax holidays and waivers, especially of customs duties on the equipment for film and music production, amongst others. It was a necessary move given the background to our present creative landscape built by solely by creative entrepreneurs.
Many artists were angry that the government is currently interested in what the industry can offer with less demonstration of what the government can and should do for the sector. Most movie and music producers single-handedly battled piracy, while many have abandoned the fight and settled for whatever they can get at movie premieres and live performances. But now, they envisage a scenario where the government will initiate a regulation that will benefit the national treasury while creative people will continue to depend on epileptic power, power generators, craters-ridden roads, demanding touts and other prevalent conditions in most cities in Nigeria.
During a post-conference media briefing, the Minister clarified the issues surrounding his proposed amendment to the broadcasting code saying that there is no ban on foreign production of music videos and movies.
“If the programme is a Nigerian content programme, the programme must be produced in Nigeria. We cannot continue to develop the economy of other parts of the world without developing ours,” he said.
The Minister said the conference was full of robust discussions with the aim of bridging the gap between government regulators and stakeholders.
IT experts and financiers were also part of the discourse on financing the industry.
To make clear that the conference was not just another talk shop, the Minister invited 20 people to invest $50,000 each in upcoming artists for the $1million dollar venture capital.
Meanwhile, in future deliberations, it will be instructive to bring the Minister of power to the discussion. As long as Nigeria grapples with power outage, with no apologies to the consumers, many creative people will go abroad for their productions.
While some artists made valid arguments about shooting videos outside the home country as a global trend, it constitutes national concern because it is a fad among many artists to shoot music videos outside Nigeria. Starting off with Nigerian-made videos, most artists “migrate” after a few hits.
The proposed broadcasting code may indeed raise the bar local content productions which is actually rich with the likes of television series such as Jenifa’s Diary, Bukas & Joints, and more.