FG Approves Measures to Ameliorate Effects of COVID-19 on Broadcast Stations

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

The Federal Government has approved measures for open terrestrial radio and television services in Nigeria, including slashing the existing licence fee by 30 per cent with effect from July 10, granting the two-month licence-fee waiver and 60 per cent debt rebate to all debtor stations as part of efforts to ease the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the broadcast industry.

Disclosing these at a press conference he addressed with the Acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, in Abuja on July 6, 2020, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the 60% debt rebate applied only to functional licensed terrestrial radio and television stations indebted to the government and which are able to pay 40% of their debts within the next three months. According to the Minister, Nigerian radio and television stations owe government N7 billion in licensing and renewal fees.

He said although the pandemic affected all sectors of the nation’s economy, the broadcast industry had been particularly hard hit due to falling revenues occasioned by the dwindling adverts and sponsored programmes.

The Minister said the NBC disclosed that many radio and television stations were indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N7bn and many are faced with the reality that their licences will not be renewed, in view of their indebtedness. He said against this background, the management of the NBC recommended, and the Federal Government accepted the measures to revamp the broadcast industry and to help reposition it for the challenges of business, post-COVID-19. He stated that stations that fail to pay the balance of 40 per cent indebtedness within the three-month window will forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness adding, the debt relief offer would open on July 10 and close on October 6, 2020.

He stated that the federal government’s gesture is to ensure financial sustainability among broadcast stations in the wake of the global impact of COVID-19 on the economy added that the federal government made the interventions with a view to repositioning the broadcast industry to play its critical role of promoting democracy and good governance in Nigeria, and expecting that the sector will cash in on this unique opportunity to make itself an effective catalyst for national development.

Alhaji Mohammed said Pay TV service operators would not benefit from the debt relief and discounted licence fee offer.