FG Grants Two-month Licence Waiver to Broadcast Stations

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Lai Mohammed

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Vanessa Obioha in Lagos

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has granted a two-month licence fee waiver for terrestrial broadcast stations as part of efforts to ease the negative effects of the COVID-19 on the broadcast industry in the country.

He announced the concession yesterday 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 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 that is deemed most suitable for the industry in order to encourage growth. The committee has four weeks to submit its report.

The committee will be chaired by ace comedian, Ali Baba and include other representatives of film, music and theatre, like Bolanle Austen-Peters, Segun Arinze, Dare Art Alade, Charles Novia, Kene Okwuosa, Chioma Ude, Baba Agba, Ali Jita, Efe Omorogbe, Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim, Anita Eboigbe, Olumade Adesemowo and Prince Daniel Aboki.

“We are still expecting representatives from the fashion, publishing, photography, hospitality and travel sectors,” the minister added.

Reacting, Novia who is a media entrepreneur and CEO of Teen TV applauded the federal government for recognising the creative industry at a critical time like this.“In these uncertain times and with the entertainment sector badly affected as with other reeling sectors of the economy, the committee as set up by the FG, will make the best recommendations for the sectors we represent.”

“Thankfully, the FG recognises our sector as one of the pivots in job creation and though we have all been badly affected by the Covid-19 economic fallouts, we are hopeful that with the right actions taken after the committee makes its recommendations, we will be out of the woods,” he said.

Mohammed disclosed that the federal government has approved the request by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to grant a two-month licence fee waiver for terrestrial broadcast stations in Nigeria.

“I want to put on record that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has sent protective equipment to some community broadcast stations across the country,” he emphasized.

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 shut down of the stations if not properly managed.

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