COVID-19: FG Grants Two- month Licence Fee Waiver to Broadcast Stations

Lai Mohammed
  • BON seeks one-year moratorium, tax rebates

By Olawale Ajimotokan

The Federal Government has granted a two-month licence fee waiver for terrestrial broadcast stations as part of efforts to ease the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the broadcast industry in the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the concession Wednesday when he constituted a 14-man committee of industrial stakeholders to advise on how to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the broadcasting industry.

The minister had charged the committee to give guidance to government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the sector as well as create succour for small businesses within the industry.

He also asked the committee to suggest the type of taxation and financing deemed most suitable for the industry in order to encourage growth. The committee has four weeks to submit its report.

The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) had pressed the federal government to approve tax rebates for the broadcast stations as well as a one- year moratorium in the payment of annual operating licence fee payable to the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

They also requested the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to institute a special broadcast sector stimulus to enable broadcast stations access long term facilities at a single digit.

Chairman of BON, Geoffrey Ohuanbunwa, lamented that the pandemic was affecting the revenue generation and earnings of the broadcast industry, with imminent collapse, unemployment and shutdown of the stations if not properly managed.

He said in his address, delivered by the Vice Chairman, Sa’a Ibrahim, that independent and privately owned broadcast stations had made over N2 billion worth airtime free of charge to sensitisise for the containment of coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to the shut-down of economic activities and virtually eroded the economic base of most of the broadcast sector, especially the independent private commercial organisations that hitherto have been surviving on earnings sourced from commercials only,” BON said.

Subsequently, to save the industry from going under arising from a dip in revenue, it urged government to intervene by providing personal protective equipment (PPE), Special Duty Allowances and life insurance for journalists covering COVID-19 as it is the standard worldwide.

It also pleaded for all bank loans to be negotiated and rescheduled to afford adequate time for repayment and for government to compel the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to urgently pay the approved compensation of relocated 2.5GHZ MMDS to cable television operators, whose business has been stalled.