The federal government has approved 60 per cent debt forgiveness for broadcast stations owing it in Nigeria, to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced this on Monday in Abuja at a media briefing on the government’s efforts to institute financial sustainability among broadcast stations in the country.
Mr Mohammed noted that the broadcast industry had been particularly hard-hit due to falling revenues occasioned by the dwindling adverts and sponsored programmes in the wake of the pandemic.
He disclosed that many Nigerian radio and television stations remained indebted to the government to the tune of N7. 8 billion while many of them were faced with the reality that their licenses would not be renewed in view of their indebtedness.
“Against this background, the management of the NBC has recommended, and the federal government has accepted 60 per cent debt forgiveness for all debtor broadcast stations in the country,” he said.
Mr Mohammed, however, said the criterion for enjoying the debt forgiveness was for debtor stations to pay 40 per cent of their existing debt within the next three months
According to him, any station that is unable to pay the balance of 40 percent indebtedness within the three months window shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness.
The minister said the government also approved that the existing license fee of the broadcast stations be further discounted by 30 per cent for all Open Terrestrial Radio and Television services effective July 10.
He said the debt forgiveness would apply to functional licensed Terrestrial Radio and Television stations only.
“The debt forgiveness and discount shall not apply to pay TV service operators in Nigeria.
“The effective date of the debt forgiveness shall be July 10 to October 6th, 2020,” he said.
Mr Mohammed said the measures were in addition to the two-month licence-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations in the country by the NBC, as part of efforts to ease the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He gave an assurance that the measures taken by the government would give lifeline and revamp the Industry as well as help reposition it for the challenges of business in the post-COVID-19 era.
“The federal government has made these interventions with a view to re-positioning the broadcast industry to play its critical role of promoting democracy and good governance in Nigeria.
“It is our expectation that the sector will cash in on this unique opportunity to make itself an effective catalyst for national development,” he said.
Speaking on efforts to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on the creative sector in general, the minister recalled that government set up the Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the creative industry,
He said the committee had submitted its report, which contained recommendations that would benefit all component parts of the larger creative industry.
Fielding questions from journalists, the minister said similar measures would be extended to the print industry by the government.
The Acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Armstrong Idachaba, said the commission is carrying out a holistic review of the broadcast sector as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Idachaba, who was also at the briefing, said the government would enforce the Pay as You Go directive to the Pay-Tv because it was in the interest of all.