The Federal Government Monday granted debt forgiveness of 60 per cent to broadcast stations in the country whose indebtedness currently stands at N7.8 billion.
The benefitting stations are consequently, to pay only 40 per cent of their total debt to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) within three months with effect from July 10 or lose the special concession.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said at a media briefing in Abuja that the government considered the waivers as a measure of instituting financial sustainability among broadcast stations in Nigeria.
The minister, who was accompanied by the Acting Director-General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Aduku Idachaba, listed some conditions to be fulfilled by the debtor stations to enjoy the waiver.
One of the terms is that the debtor stations must pay 40 per cent of their existing debts within the next three months.
Any station that is unable to pay 40 per cent of its debt within the window period shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the debt forgiveness.
Other waivers approved by the government include discounting of the existing license fee by 30 per cent for all open terrestrial radio and television services effective July 10th, 2020.
The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional and licensed terrestrial radio and television stations only.
Mohammed explained that the debt forgiveness and discount would not apply to pay television service operators in the country and that the effective date of the debt forgiveness should be July 10th, 2020 to October 6th, 2020.
DigitaTimesNG understands that the waivers followed recommendations by the NBC to the government to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the broadcast stations, after a meeting on May 6, 2020, between the minister and representatives of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), who requested the intervention of the federal and state governments.
The minister noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected all sectors of the nation’s economy with the broadcast industry being particularly hard hit due to falling revenues occasioned by dwindling advertisements and patronage.
He said the government set up the Post-COVID-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry to help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on the sector, and its recommendations included benefits to all component parts of the larger creative industry.
According to Mohammed, the debt forgiveness is an addition to the two-month licence-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations by the NBC.
On the part of the print media, the minister said the Federal Government was engaging with the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, (NPAN) to explore ways the government could be of help but observed that the situation of the print media was slightly different from that of the broadcast.
He disclosed that owners of the print media had been asked to submit some documents to the government for consideration.
Idachaba, who spoke on the monopoly of pay television currently enjoyed by MultiChoice, owners of DSTV, said the NBC would go all the way this time to enforce the broadcast regulation that benefits all Nigerians.
Mohammed added that pay-as-you-go television services in the country were achievable and that the service providers might at the end gain more by expanding their businesses.