The Nigerian Senate has ordered pay-tv service providers in Nigeria to review their bouquet prices downwards. The Senate gave the directive today during a session in response to the agitation by users following a recent tariff hike by DStv and a call for a pay-per-view subscription model across social media.
This follows a decision by MultiChoice Nigeria, owners of DStv and GOtv, to increase its subscription rates across the board with effect from April 1, 2022. This was confirmed by the company via a statement to Nairametrics.
The debate on the motion was led by Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Senator Abba Moro. He was supported by Senator representing Taraba Central Senatorial District, Yusuf A Yusuf and Senator representing Kano North Senatorial District, Senator Barau Jibrin.
Announcing the decision of the red parliament, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan said:
“What DStv Nigeria is doing here, they can’t do it in many countries, but here they do it and get away with it. So we need to have a public hearing. ur ad-hoc committee should be given the mandate to do a whole scale investigation. The Committee has one month to report back to the Senate and at the end of the day, we should have all these unnecessary payments we make to DSTV Nigeria reversed if they can’t justify it”
Similarly, the senate also directed the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Nigerian Communications Commission to direct all pay-tv providers to introduce a pay-per-view model of subscription.
We have been here before
Recall that exactly one year ago, the lower parliament in Nigeria, the House of Representatives considered a new bill to regulate the prices of PAYG entertainment services. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Unyime Idem (PDP-Akwa Ibom).
This followed a similar hike of subscription tariffs by DSTV, GOTV, TSTV, Startimes in the country.
The bill sought to amend Section 2(1) of the Principal Legislation and give Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) the power to regulate and review through its broadcasting codes, the tariff being charged by the Digital Satellite Television Services and other broadcasting outfits in Nigeria and subscription policy for subscribers.
The implication is that service providers will intimate the NBC with intended changes in packages and prices and the commission will then review and act as it considers appropriate. This, many view as bearing a significant possibility for stifling the sector.
Much of the bill has not yet been seen.
Last year, MultiChoice rejected the Federal government’s request to introduce a Pay-Per-View (PPV) billing model. The company revealed this while announcing a price slash on the cost of acquiring its DStv and GOtv decoders. According to DStv, there is no possibility of implementing a pay-as-go model in the country’s pay television industry.
Chief Customer Officer of DStv, Martin Mabutho, explained that the billing model has no empirical practice anywhere, adding that it is not only technically impracticable but also contractually cumbersome.
Like Nigeria, like Africa
Nigeria is not the first country to propose a bill that regulates the prices of DSTV and other Pay-TV service providers. In Angola, operators have to seek regulatory approval from the Angolan Institute of Communications (Inacom) before asking subscribers to pay a higher fee.
In March 2019, Inacom blocked a move by Multichoice to hike DSTV fees by about 20%. The move was then reviewed by both parties until the service provider received approval to move ahead with a reviewed fee hike. A framework similar to that of the proposed bill in Nigeria is already in place in Angola and has allowed for price hikes that are considered fair by both parties.
The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) attempted something similar but failed. BOCRA asked that Multichoice submit any proposed tariff or tariff hike for approval before it can be implemented. Multichoice rejected the regulation and contended against it in the court of appeals.
The judges ruled in Multichoice’s favour and agreed that it should be able to hike prices at will and that put an end to Botswana’s attempt to regulate pay-TV prices in the country.
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