Some civil society organizations (CSOs) have kicked against an amendment bill seeking to grant the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) power to fix tariffs for digital satellite television services.

The bill aims to empower NBC to “regulate and review, through its broadcasting code, the tariff being charged by the Digital Satellite Television Services and other broadcasting outfits in Nigeria and other subscription policy for subscribers”.

However, some media stakeholders opposed the amendment at a public hearing organized by the house of representatives committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values on Wednesday.

In their joint submission, the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Centre for Media Law and Advocacy argued that giving NBC power to fix tariffs will usurp the functions of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

Speaking on behalf of the groups, Lanre Arogundade, executive director of IPC, said the FCCPC act has “adequate provisions to deal with the often contentious issue of competition and pricing in Nigeria”.

Arogundade also said the FCCPC is “technically equipped to handle the kind of matters being dabbled into here, being a specialised agency established for specific purposes”.

“Fixing tariffs arbitrarily could lead to excessive pricing that has the potential of discouraging investment in the sector and the attendant job losses,” he said.

“Giving the NBC the sole right over tariff issues which cannot be interfered with could be interpreted as an ouster clause that arrogates to it arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in the court of law.

“The two sub-sections highlighted above should be removed from the proposed amendment bill of the NBC Act.”

In his presentation, Emmanuel Ataguba of Ataguba and Ataguba solicitors said price regulation would not be of benefit to consumers, except where government subsidies are involved.

“We submit that the amendment goes against the objective of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act to ‘protect and promote the interests and welfare of consumers by providing consumers with wider variety of quality products (and services) at competitive prices,” he said.

“Even though the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act does not define “competitive prices”, it is trite to say that competitive prices are prices determined by market forces in today’s open and free market regime.”

Nigerians have often complained about the subscription rates for pay-TV, with some claiming the country has the highest rates in Africa.

However, a fact check by TheCable proved this as false.

Compared DStv subscription rates in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana and Multichoice’s home country, South Africa, and found that the subscription is cheaper in Nigeria than most of its peers across Africa.

Written By Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq

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