Hope Comes for Domestic Sports Content through 6th NBC Code

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Duro Ikhazuagbe

“Advertisement of products and services during prime foreign sports contents shall not be broadcast unless the advertiser equally sponsors, and or advertises such products and services in the broadcast of prime local sports content in the same category, where such local contents produced in Nigeria are available.”- Section 6.2.12 of the 6th National Broadcast Code

The above is an excerpt from Nigeria’s 6th National Broadcast Codes released on July 4, 2019 which presents an interesting outlook for ownership of international sports broadcast rights and domestic sports content in Nigeria in the seasons ahead.

In what can be considered a radical move to protect domestic sports and promote patronage for domestic sports content, the Nigeria Broadcast Commission (NBC) encoded provisions that compels corporations commissioning advertisements in or outright broadcast sponsorship of foreign sports contents on local television and radio as well as broadcast organisations acquiring broadcast rights to also acquire rights to the broadcast of premium domestic sports.

Obviously, free market advocates would be up in arms to contest the seeming imposition of business decisions on broadcast organisations and their corporate partners. Then, protectionism in business have never received more fillip than we are currently experiencing in America where President Donald Trump is unabashedly pushing the international markets for patronage of American products and services. If the world capital of capitalism and free market can insist on deals to promote trade in favour of America, who are we here to shout?

It’s worth repeating here that deploying resources made from domestic consumption for funding of foreign broadcast contents is not only inimical to the economy which suffers from capital flight, but is killing the domestic sports industry, piling up unemployment and creating social distress as youths who otherwise would have been gainfully engaged in sports are left to wallow in social vices. Such spends on international sports contents creates jobs in the countries where the rights are bought from and provides much needed revenue for the industry in those countries to lure the best talents from all corners of the globe, making their industry a more elegant and attractive proposition.

There has been the counter argument that our sports have not developed into the quality of product that can compete with its international counterparts, hence the preference by rights consumers to patronise the more attractive foreign content. This is a clever by half proposition and it negates the realities of the third world and the advanced western economies.

Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Is’haq Modibbo Kawu was unknowingly responding to this when he noted in his forward on the Codes that “a final point of interest is the manner the 6th edition of the National Broadcasting Code has also reflected the conviction that our sports in general ought to get advertising funding support that matches a reasonable percentage of the huge amount of advertising spend that supports foreign sporting activities”.

There are obvious initial challenges that the policy will throw up such as the difficulty Advertisers, Company Marketing Executives and Media Buyers will face in making business decisions on allocating hitherto unbudgeted funds for investment in domestic sports either through sponsorship or purchase of broadcast rights to domestic sports content. This is natural at the outset of every new policy but the long term gains outweigh the short term rough edges.

The Government may also encourage a buy-in for corporate investment by offering sweeteners by way of incentives that may include some form tax exemption or holiday for organisations that comply with the code. There may be other waivers that could be offered such as duty waivers for import of equipment associated with broadcast. Significantly, the recent Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Bill passed by the 8th National Assembly made specific provisions providing for tax exemption and other concessions to companies sponsoring football and this can be extended across all sports.

It is patently devious to mop up cash from domestic consumption and use same to create unemployment here and enrich economies of other nations. A thriving domestic sports industry will in the long run create jobs and expertise in allied industries such as media, legal, merchandising, technology, infrastructure, Finance, Insurance and the health sector to list just a few.

There can be no future for the domestic sports industry if we keep blind eyes and sealed lips to the shameless dumping of international sports content on our media space while blacking out the domestic activities. Broadcast right remains the premium revenue source for sports funding and the NBC Code is on point in seeking to compel even if trickles to the sector. We may need to get familiar with practices in some European countries such as Britain, Italy, Germany and Spain where different forms of regulations are embedded in their broadcast codes and with additional laws in place to protect and support their domestic sports competitions.

Actor and movie producer, Desmond Elliot recently called for outright ban of foreign contents in movies aired in the country and while he has been met with stringent criticisms by persons that readily compare domestic movies with the more established Hollywood, the germane point in his call is that Nollywood cannot compete with Hollywood. The American movie industry is supported by advanced infrastructure, technology and big finance that is already available in the country unlike Nigeria that is far behind in all indices. Same applies to our sports industry that also lacks the infrastructure, technology, finance and history behind European sports.

The rules have now been laid down for existing and interested broadcast organisations on acquisition of international sports content rights and no organisation can subvert such a binding regulation. Section 5.2.11 was very clear on this and states that “foreign sports content can no longer be transmitted in the Nigerian territory except the owner of such content has acquired a Prime Local Sports Content of the same category with at least 30 percent of the cost of acquiring the foreign sports content”.

An obvious challenge to the domestic sports industry is that those at the helm must initiate steps to float broadcast production companies either wholly owned or in partnership with companies with relevance competence and business capacity to produce events that can compete with established foreign contents. Over the years, there has been a sloppy relationship that sees television and radio outlets produce events and own the contents. Some of the negative effects of such partnership has been the warehousing of the content, inability to extract maximum rights fee and also loss of revenue from international sales of the contents to interested broadcast channels in other continents. Obviously, the production costs also affect the bottom line of the broadcast rights buyer given the huge cost in equipment and logistics.

This has been the difference between Sports Content rights owners in places such as the United States of America, Europe, South America, Asia and nearer home, South Africa. Independent production of sports events will ensure national exposure as rights would be sold across terrestrial and direct to Home Services as well as to live streaming and mobile platforms.

As noted by a former Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Fred Edoreh, this is a move to arrest the closing down of domestic sports. “The codes couldn’t have come at a better time than now when we have been subjected to unabashed promotion of foreign sports content, especially football by broadcast organisations and their corporate partners that exploit the economy, make huge kill in selling to domestic consumers but shift the profits to promote foreign football and create jobs in those countries”.

In closing this piece, it is worth mentioning that credit must be ascribed to the Federal Government for getting this code approved as it has real potentials to elevate domestic sports to the next level and former Minister for Information and Communication, Alhaji Lai Mohammed also deserves applause for driving the process with the support of Alhaji Kawu, the NCC Director General. It is hoped that government will put measures in place to ensure the enforcement of the regulations.