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NBC extends timeline for debtor broadcast stations to month end, mulls license revocation

In a show of magnanimity, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), has extended till march 31st, the window of paying all outstanding licence fees owed by broadcast stations, hinting that clampdown will follow immediately the grace period is over.

The agency had during last month’s stakeholders meeting in Abuja made itself clear on the appropriate sanctions awaiting defaulters from March 15, 2017.

Details form NBC showed that over 54 broadcast stations owe about N5 billion licence fees.

In his remarks during a press conference in Abuja on Monday, Director-General of the Commission, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, decried the situation where many stations have refused to pay their licence fees and extended the period for the benefit of doubt.

He said “Let me re-iterate that ALL outstanding sums owed the NBC WOULD be COLLECTED!”

He decried what he tagged persistent pattern of refusal to pay license fees, saying “Stations around Nigeria owe the NBC over N5Billion”.

“Even the statutory act of informing NBC, six months before expiration of licenses and signification of intention to continue as licensees is willfully ignored by stations. While every licensee is aware that every license issued by NBC is PROVISIONAL and could be withdrawn at any point, stations carry on as if they OWN those licenses and can do as they pretty well please”.

“License fees are in arrears; there is no plan by many of these stations to pay; while some even have the temerity to write NBC, the regulatory institution, that the amount they are obliged to pay is too much; consequently, they then tell us how much they are willing to pay, and even adding the time they are going to pay such sums that they have decided to pay. In truth, a pattern of gross indiscipline and misbehavior has been central to the relationship which many of the licensees had established in the past with the NBC. There are those who used political connections with the top most political leadership of Nigeria in the past, to get illegal and undue favours, that run contrary to the NBC Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. That is the only way they have operated and it is the way they know. But this is a new era, at the NBC and in Nigeria.

“We gave a time line of March 15, 2017, for ALL stations owing outstanding license fees to effect payment. After consultations, that time line is being extended to March 31st, 2017. I want to affirm that AFTER March 31st, stations that refuse to meet their license fees obligations to the NBC, would be closed down! Period! After we have collected outstanding license fees, stations would then be requested to turn in their Annual Reports for us to carry out the obligatory assessment of what constitutes a percentage of the Annual Turn Over that they are also OBLIGED to pay the NBC.

“Let me re-assure our colleagues that we do understand that these are difficult economic times in our country, but that cannot be justification for not meeting lawful obligations. Some of these license fees were due even before the economy entered a recession; it means that they had refused to do the right thing even in a period of economic normalcy.

On licenses revocation, kawu said “Over the past two weeks, I gave directive that the licenses of 54 companies that were issued licenses but had refused to pay their fees within the mandatory 60-day window, be revoked”.

“And those licenses are revoked! There is another list of over 120 licenses that were paid within the mandatory period but were unable to come on air, within the mandatory TWO YEARS; they are also being processed for revocation. And they will be revoked! Frequencies cannot be held indefinitely by individuals.

“We are delighted that Nigerians are investing in setting up radio and television stations; they create jobs; open up accesses for content producers to showcase talents and are contributing to national development. But no one has a right to hold on to allocated frequencies indefinitely, when the resource itself is finite and there are other people waiting and ready to make use of those frequencies.

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