Sometime in July 2020, the National Broadcasting Commission (Commission/NBC) released its amendment to the 6th edition NBC Code (Code) for the year-2020. This amendment, though made pursuant to the powers vested on the Commission has been met with mixed reactions.
The peculiarities of the sports industry and its potential for commercialization raise a number of issues which are worth considering before the new amendments are implemented. These issues are usually taken into consideration in implementing the provisions of a competition law in most jurisdictions.
This article analyzes the commercial ramifications of this amendment on existing broadcast content platforms, especially existing events sports rights owners/holders.
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Section 2(h) of the NBC Act gives the Commission the power to establish the National Broadcasting Code to set up standards with regard to the contents and quality of materials for broadcast. The Code stands as the minimum guidelines for regulating broadcasting in Nigeria.
However, a major drawback of the Code, amongst others, is its failure to envisage and provide for the impact of technology on broadcasting.
A look at the Amendment reveals the laudable objective of promoting effective competition in the broadcast industry and to prevent the abuse of monopoly or market power and unfair practices by broadcasters or licensees or facility providers.
In furtherance of this objective, the Amendment has now proceeded to provide for many items which were hitherto not considered in the Code. These include amongst others:
(a) Web/online broadcasting.
(b) Local content character.
(c) Unconventional Reportage: and
(d) Sports rights.
Sports rights: Leveraging on the country’s passion for football, notable media platforms have been known to scramble for the broadcast rights of major sporting events with far-reaching commercial implications. The broadcast of the English Premier League for example only became a regular feature in Nigeria with the emergence of Multichoice.
Questions have been raised on the propriety of the firm’s monopolistic stranglehold on the broadcast rights of some of Europe’s finest football leagues with the ensuing prohibitive subscription costs imposed on its Nigerian customers. It was not surprising therefore, when some Nigerians welcomed the new amendments with open arms.
This amendment, critically, seeks to remove the monopolistic broadcast rights hitherto enjoyed by the licensees/rights holders. The Code expressly places a ban on exclusivity of sporting rights in Nigeria, and prohibits warehousing of sports rights.
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Henceforth, rights to a sporting event shall be submitted to the Commission for ratification before they can be broadcast in Nigeria. In addition, no prime foreign sport content shall be transmitted in Nigeria unless the owner also acquires prime local sport content of the same category with a minimum of 30% of the cost of acquiring the foreign content.
Anti-competition: A broadcaster or licensee is prohibited from entering into any contract which will hinder or distort competition in any part of the broadcast media industry in Nigeria. Prohibition from entering any broadcasting rights acquisition either in Nigeria or anywhere in the world to acquire any broadcasting rights which exclude persons in Nigeria from sub-licensing. Any such agreement entered into is void.