Should NTA charge Licence Fee?

NTA is the acronym for Nigeria Television Authority. It is the public service broadcasting channel owned by the Nigerian government. NTA is run by branches and network centres, while the headquarters is in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

I attended an interesting class yesterday where we discussed public broadcasting television stations versus commercially owned ones and the license fee charged for watching the BBC (whether or not you watch that channel).As long as you have a television box in your house, you are liable to pay the licence fee, and if you have a laptop, iPad or any device with the capacity to connect to the BBC, you have to pay the fee too(even if you steered completely clear of the channel). This fee is about £145-150 per year (Nigerian currency equivalent of N37, 500 @ N250 exchange rate).

When the tutor asked if this should be the case, majority said no, and I wondered where the money to fund the organisation would come from then. BBC in my opinion has remained one of the most respected purveyor of news (locally and globally) because it has managed to maintain its position since it is somewhat independent of political or commercial interests – that is, it does not garner funds from these sources. You may have heard the saying that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

If Nigeria could have just one news provider that the public could vouch for and depend on because they and they only fund it, what do you think that would do for the society?

My thinking however may have its foundation laid in the fantasy land of utopia for the following reasons: (1) People would ask me, “how does that put food on my table?” – let’s face it, a lot of people would not be able to afford or be willing to pay for it.

(2) There is no solid mechanism in place now to effectively identify those who would refuse to pay the licence fee. In Britain for instance, whenever you buy a television box (be it a charity shop or posh store), you details are immediately sent to the T.V. Licensing body. You just check your postbox a few days after – “please pay your TV Licence fee”.

Do you have more reasons why it may not work? kindly share with me in the comment section.

BENEFITS:

Having a television channel run by the public and for the public would do wonders for the practice of democracy in the country – for once ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ would be put into a meaningful context.

It would be void of the ‘pop culture stuff’ that have overtaken almost every channel (music videos, soaps & co), to really inform and educate the public, helping them make quality and informed socio-economic and political decisions as to governance.

It would be an ideal forum for democratic deliberation where citizens can truly exercise their rights to free speech

It would have the potential of being global, thus exporting Nigerian culture (very differently from the Nollywood style of things)

Conclusion

I propose a mobile TV (A channel that exists and is transmitted on only mobile phones). The license would be paid through the telecomm service charging and remitting to the organisation. Perhaps this technology has not been born, perhaps it would be cost-effective thus license would be highly affordable, perhaps all these is just wishful thinking on my part – but I believe it is worth giving a thought to.

Media Junkie

Photo Credit: Mail Online

The Tweet that inspired me this morning

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14 thoughts on “Should NTA charge Licence Fee?

  1. Agatha says:

    In other countries it will work not in Nigeria. In sweden for instance, SVT is the acronym for Swedish television. Its a public service broadcasting channel owned by the swedish government. People pay television licence every 3rd month and its called public service and the station is free from any kind of commercials . In Nigeria it will take time, because we do not have the culture of paying tax or bills. I agree with your propose “A Mobile TV” with that you can not escape paying.

    • Tomexy says:

      Agatha thank you for the insight into the Swedish Television licensing scheme. I do agree with you that it a cultural thing. Who says Nigeria cannot adopt a new culture? Citizens keep expecting things to change without doing things differently… I thought as much about the Mobile TV, that’s why I proposed it. This is because, majority of the qualms with the BBC Licensing mechanism is that people who refuse to watch BBC ask, “why do I have to pay licence for the man next door when I don’t watch BBC (coz I don’t want to have to pay)?”

      Thank you again for your comment.

  2. this is a very interesting topic.

    1. i don’t think the best way is to compel people to pay a licensing fee. the NTA’s reach makes it an excellent choice for advertisers, BUT nobody actually watches the station except at 9pm. A solution? the NTA should be given a time frame after which they will no longer be funded by the government. in that time, they will improve their content, and everything else, and make it attractive for all kinds of viewers. free money, in my opinion, limits creativity.

    2. eventually, if they become so good, they will ask for a licensing fee, and people will pay regardless.

    3. of course, i am not a media person, so i could be corrected on the above points.

    4. nice site redesign. love it.

    5. errr…ummm….errrr…. i can’t remember what i was going to say. *Rick Perry moment* oops!

    • Tomexy says:

      @ Joachim, you have indeed raised a very interesting solution… it however undermines my argument for an independent channel. If NTA has to be attractive first (I am assuming you mean drama, movies music etc and stuff available on other channels) before commanding a licence fee then it may as well remain funded by the government.

      The idea behind divorcing it from the government and commercial interests is to ensure it can stand on its own two feet and do what other channels aren’t doing – educating the masses with powerful news analysis, not swayed by extraneous interests.

      There is no doubt that NTA needs a lot of work in the ‘attractivity’ department though.

      Thanks for ‘loving’ the re-deisgn I had cold-feet at first 🙂

      As for point 5, I await your EUREKA moment 😛

  3. leonmacedon says:

    My two cents. Nigerians will never pay TV license fee to watch it. Putting aside the fact that majority of the populations are poor, and like you said will ask if “if it will put food on their table?”. No one really watches that station. DSTV, HItv, and odas with their ”pop culture’ channels have taking over. The main reason an individual sits in front of a TV is to be entertained, and NTA is not entertaining.. BBC is.

    • Tomexy says:

      Leon you rock for that observation 😀 – BBC Entertains… they do this without necessarily differing to “pop culture” exactly (how they achieve this amazes). BBC promotes British culture like no other -which is one of its primary duty anyway.

      NTA is meant to do the same with Nigerian Culture. Perhaps, that is what Joachim was referring to by being ‘Attractive”. I reckon NTA could start by re-producing age long drama series like Cock Crows @ Dawn, adapting it to modern times etc

      However, my question is this? – if NTA by some ‘technological-miracle’ becomes very entertaining – would you pay licence fee?

      • leonmacedon says:

        It’s good yu said by some ‘technological miracle’. But if they do, I’d be willing to the license fee if it’s cheap. I’ve alredy got DSTV subscription on my bill

  4. Exactly!!!!!! bring back ‘Behind the Clouds’, ‘Cock crow at Dawn’, ‘Village Headmaster’, ‘Checkmate’, etc, bring them ALL back. if they can, they could show all the old episodes, while getting ready to start new episodes. you dig? they could also get those old episodes and market them, upgrade the video quality, put them in DVDs, and sell ’em in Naija and overseas. People are DYING to watch these things again. there is big time nostalgia. i see tweets about it every week. the marketing will rake in TONS of cash. i could go on and on. i have even blogged about this before.

    As per the license fee, it is a classic ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: do you pay for the service FIRST, before it improves, or does the service improve before you pay. I dunno how much the Beeb gets a month, but i think that if 10 million Nigerians paid N1,000 that is N10 billion a month (about 40 million pounds if i’m right), and it could be a base to begin improvements. Of course, every single dime spent must be open to the public, and when people see it improving, they would happily continue with it and more would sign up. There is nothing hard in collecting money from people. With the right administrative and technical leadership, the NTA can be whatever it wants.

  5. Our problem in Nigeria is that we don’t like paying taxes. We have the mind that, with the perceived high level of corruption in the system, the taxes paid would be misappropriated. The fact that we don’t run a system that depends on taxpayers’ money is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it relieves the already impoverished populace of the burden, but a curse because it fosters the culture of corruption. Citizens, who feel helpless at the perceived level of corruption also care less contributing to the treasury by way of paying taxes.

  6. Agatha Akhabue Fältström says:

    One of my mentor in broadcasting Cordelia Okpei wrote on her face book wall “CCTV (Central China TV) shows how useless NTA is.” she is a staff of NTA. Her reasons “Do you see how they sell China? You would want to move there. See programmes, camera work, colours, etc. Have you seen the so called promos for Nigeria being run on ‘NTA international’? Very annoying. Pity! I see China from a totally different light now. All the provinces, music, food…goodness. I no longer give the excuse that ‘it is too far’. Now, I want to go there. All because of a station’s packaging of the nation.”

    CCTV is a free to air channel satellite with French and english version on DSTV. NTA is also on DSTV. What have they done with the air time on DSTV nothing. There are people who have the professional knowledge to get things done in line with international standards and turn NTA around.I wonder how long it will take NTA to wake up. NTA should get things right first before we talk of TV licence fee.

  7. toyin says:

    Just wondering. I’m aware that there’s a radio/TV license fee collected by local government touts from small businesses.
    Also i remember receiving an invoice for television tax a while ago…I think there is one in place but no collections/remittances are done. I don’t remember paying the outrageous fee charged (cant remember how much it was) and no one has disturbed me for it.

    • Tomexy says:

      Wowzers! “there’s a TV and Radio licence fee collected by local government touts” ? I would really appreciate if you could send me a pic of the bill (if you know where it is). And thank you for your comment Toyin.

  8. Lifeka says:

    1. No, you are not liable to pay the licence fee, and if you have a laptop, iPad or any device with the capacity to connect to the BBC. You are only liable (breaking the law) if you watch live TV program from any broadcaster, not just BBC. So if you want to watch TV and avoid the licence, the best thing to do is to exercise patience because BBC, Channel 4 (4OD) and ITV put those programs on their iPlayers few hours later. So if you watch it on iPlayer, you wont be liable because it is not live.
    2. There is TV and radio licence in Port Harcourt City local governmnet and Obio Akpor local government (both in Port Harcourt, Rivers state). It is generally collected by touts. The radio tax include car radios, so wind up if you have to drive in Port Harcourt, because the touts will tell you the one you bought is not genuine, if you did not buy it from there tout-group (agency)
    3. National TV licence fee would encourage more corruption in Nigeria. The oil companies pay billions in tax, the more the money from tax, the worse the country and the poorer the ordinary people. First thing first, lets get our power supply right and every good thing will follow naturally

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