The Federal Government has decided to write off 60 per cent of the N7bn owed by radio and television stations in licensing and renewal fees.
The government has also slashed the existing licence fee by 30 per cent for all open terrestrial radio and television services with effect from July 10.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed these at a press conference he addressed with the acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, in Abuja on Monday.
The N7bn being owed the Federal Government by the broadcast industry is the total outstanding from television and radio stations on renewal of their operating licences.
Mohammed however said for any debtor station to benefit from the 60 per cent debt relief, it must be ready to pay the 40 per cent balance within the next three months.
He said the debt relief offer would open on July 10 and close on October 6, 2020.
The minister said the measures announced were aimed at giving a lifeline to the broadcast industry, which, he said, had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said while the pandemic had affected all sectors of the nation’s economy, the broadcast industry had been particularly hard hit due to falling revenues occasioned by the dwindling adverts and sponsored programmes.
The measures, the minister added, were in addition to the two-month licence-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations in the country by the NBC.
He however said Pay TV stations would not benefit from the debt relief and discounted licence fee offer.
Mohammed said, “According to the NBC, many Nigerian radio and television stations remain indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N7bn.
“Also, many of the stations are faced with the reality that their licences will not be renewed, in view of their indebtedness.
“Against this background, the management of the NBC has therefore recommended, and the Federal Government has accepted, the following measures to revamp the broadcast industry and to help reposition it for the challenges of business, post-COVID-19:
“(a) 60 per cent debt forgiveness for all debtor broadcast stations in the country; (b) the criterion for enjoying the debt forgiveness is for debtor stations to pay 40 per cent of their existing debt within the next three months.
“(c) Any station that is unable to pay the balance of 40 per cent indebtedness within the three-month window shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness.
“(d) The existing license fee is further discounted by 30 per cent for all open terrestrial radio and television services effective July 10, 2020.
“(e) The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional licensed terrestrial radio and television stations only. (f) The debt forgiveness and discount shall not apply to pay TV service operators in Nigeria.”
When asked what the government was doing about the print media industry, the minister said he was waiting for the leadership of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria to provide him with information based on their agreement during a webinar he had with members recently.
He said engagements were on as he had already discussed the matter with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
On the “Pay as you view” policy being proposed for the PAY TV stations, Mohammed said it was the way to go.
He said the conclusion from his recent appearance before the House of Representatives was that the policy could be implemented in Nigeria.