Nigeria: Multimesh Still Rues on Losses As NBC Resolves Rift With Hitv

Investment

It appears the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, is not ready to allow quarrels amongst its members whittle down the level of progress broadcasting could make in it Nigeria in 2009, particularly as convergence has a lot of benefits for broadcasters this year.

And so it has quickly intervened in the rift between Multimesh Communications and Entertainment Highway, broadcasters of HITV over rights to broadcast European Premiership League signals in the South East and South South regions of Nigeria.

However, Hi-Tech gathered that even with the settlement, Multimesh is still licking its wounds with the untold damage which the raid of its office by Nigerian Copyright Commission, over alleged copyright infringement on HITV property has brought to its services.

The company still holds the NCC accountable to whatever hard times it is to go through before commencing full operations as usual, because according to it, NCC did not do a proper investigative job as an arbiter but rather carried out a hatchet job to satisfy one party that it has strong relationship with.

Vanguard gathered that the commission summoned the disputing parties to a meeting at its headquarters in Abuja, Wednesday last week and at the meeting, NBC officials led by its Director General, Engr Yomi Bolarinwa, were able to intervene in the dispute.

At the end of the meeting, the DG was said to have not only squeezed an agreement from the feuding parties but also tactfully held the CEO of Entertainment Highway, Toyin Subair down to admit that an agreement had indeed existed between the two organisations since 2007. To that extent, Multimesh said that it was happy that the world would now know that the dispute was rather a business dispute than the piracy kite which the NCC was flying in order to get its operations wound down.

Part of the resolution signed at the NBC office, made available to Hi-Tech, reads: "Pursuant to Section 2 (1) (Q) of the National Broadcasting Commission Act No. 38 of 1992 (as amended), the National Broadcasting met with the representatives of Entertainment Highway Ltd and Multimesh Communications Ltd to resolve the dispute on Channel Carriage License Agreement for the Broadcast of the English Premier League Matches.

After the deliberations, it was resolved and agreed as follows:

*That the Channel Carriage Agreement signed in 2007 between the parties is still subsisting.

*That Multimesh Communications Limited has agreed to pay for Calabar, Port Harcourt and Yenogoa where the Premiership matches are being broadcast.

*That Multimesh Communications Limited should send a (3) three months upfront payment in advance and a further (3) three months post dated cheques covering the season which ends in May 2009 to Entertainment Highway Limited.

*That if any dispute arises on the terms of the subsisting agreement, it should be resolved before the next Premiership Season".

The agreement was signed by Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa for Multimesh and Toyin Subair for Entertainment Highway. The Resolution was also signed by the DG of the NBC.

Multimesh boss, Ohuabunwa, said all through the period of discourse, he never said he wasn't going to pay for Calabar and Yenegoa but that the issue was disagreement over the number of subscribers in those locations as HITV was demanding payment for a flat 5,000 subscribers even in the areas that could not boast of such number of subscribers.

He stated that he was still pained at the gestapo manner in which the NCC invaded his operations in Calabar and caused damages that would take a long time to repair, without proper verification of claims made against his company.

According to Ohuabunwa, " I still can not fathom why NCC sent one Mr Ajala, in company of some armed policemen and soldiers who stormed the office in a commando fashion, ordered customers and staff of my company to lie on the floor and then carted away computer units, transmitters, files, invoices, cash and other valuable items belonging to us.

It baffles me because the Copyright Commission was copied in all our correspondences throughout the period of the dispute, yet it never carried out any investigation but relied heavily on the relationship between its head and that of the Head of HITV to execute a very wilful action."

While asking various organisations and agencies to look into the role of the Copyright Commission in order to protect the country's broadcast industry, Ohuabunwa is of the opinion that the agency is not adequately equipped and prepared to play the role of a copyright fighter looking at the way his equipment in Calabar were crudely severed and vandalized.

A good organisation, he said, would just have gone there to remove a channel block from the rack or simply seal the place, instead of using hammers and saws to destroy broadcast equipment. "At this time that businesses are getting more expensive to run and jobs difficult to come by, NCC should have been more prudent in their approach to the issue but rather it chose a dare action with a manifest intent to deal Multimesh business a severe blow" he added.

When contacted, MD of Entertainment Highway, Toyin Subair, confirmed the settlement, saying that since Multimesh has agreed to pay for all rights before re-transmitting, the matter was as good as resolved.

Vanguard Lagos 21 January 2009