Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Appeal Court Orders MultiChoice To sub-license Channels To Rival


Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has ordered MultiChoice to sublicense some channels to Metro Digital, pursuant to the revised Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC’s) Code.

In the judgment delivered Wednesday, on Metro Digital Appeal No CA/PH/188/2021 against Multichoice, the South African owner of satellite television services, DStv and GOtv, also charged NBC to compel MultiChoice to follow the court order within 21 days.

The Appellate Court decision, delivered by the Hon Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe, sets aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt in Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/199/2020 which earlier threw out the prayers of Metrodigital Limited, a multi-channel terrestrial digital satellite service provider in Nigeria.

The conflict and legal tussle all started when the FG, through the Minister for Information Culture, Lai Mohammed, Amended the NBC Code, removing exclusivity, and monopoly, from operators in the industry. 

Counsel to Metro Digital, Anetochuchukwu Nworgu, narrated, “Before then, what had obtained was that Multichoice had tried to strangulate other operators in the industry enjoying a monopoly. Federal Government (FG), realising the inherent danger, amended the regulatory provision by the 6th Edition of the NBC Code.

“That removed exclusivity, stipulating that if a major player procures and brings in any channel, bouquet within Nigerian soil, you must sublicense same to other operators in the industry for a fee.”

The responsibility of the requesting operator is to apply for sublicense of the available channels to the licensee who must give them within a reasonable time and based on the revised Code, Metro Digital had applied to Multichoice who declined.

Aware NBC as the regulator has the responsibility under the code to arbitrate and intervene in disputes, Metro Digital also wrote to the regulator on Multichoice’s refusal to sublicense. 

Nworgu added that “NBC also went to sleep. So we sued Multichoice, NBC, and the Minister for Information and Culture.”

Nworgu added, “We knew that judgment was not contemplated by the guiding Code, so we proceeded to Court of Appeal. Within the confines of the Code, we know what is required is that Multichoice has brought in a channel here (Nigeria). 

“Irrespective of whether you are a licensee, sub, or whatever nomenclature you (Multichoice) give yourself, you are under obligation to sublet. That was our contention in our application to the Appeal Court.”

The lead judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered by Hon Justice Olabode Akehingbe ruled that the lower court erred when it struck out the name of the Information Minister, as not being a necessary party, setting aside the lower court judgment that said the plaintiff didn’t prove its case and ordered MBC to within 21 days compel Multichoice to comply with the code and order of the court

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