Business & Finance

Appeal Court orders Multichoice to sublicense channels

Written by Ade

The Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has ordered MultiChoice — operators of DStv and Gotv in Nigeria, to sub-license some of its television channels to Metro Digital, in line with the code of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Delivering judgement in the appeal, the lead judge, Olabode Adegbehingbe, ordered MultiChoice to sublicense the channels within 21 days, under the supervision of NBC.

Adegbehingbe said NBC violated its statutory duties for refusing to issue directives to the complaints by Metro Digital. He noted that the non-intervention of NBC impacted negatively on the appellant’s business.

“It is my conclusion that the lower court erred when it struck out the name of the third respondent on the suit.

“The lower court also erred when it dismissed the suit of the appellant when the appellant proved the existence of the dispute between himself and the first respondent which should have been reserved for determination of the second respondent.

“The appeal is highly successful and the judgment of the lower court dismissing the entirety of the appellant is hereby set aside,” the judge ruled.

The judge also issued “an order of mandatory injunction is hereby made to compel the second respondent to heed directives of the appellant complaints against the first respondent pursuant to the Nigerian Broadcasting Code (6th edition) as amended.”

He directed the NBC to “initiate the process for the determination of the dispute between the appellant and the first respondent within 21days from the date of this judgment under the auspices of the NBC Act, 6th edition of the NBC Code and its addendum.”

The appellant, Metro Digital, a local pay television, had sued MultiChoice at Federal High Court in Port Harcourt after the South African entertainment company rejected a request from the former to sublicense channels and programmes to Metro Digital. The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture were sued as co-defendants.

MultiChoice had contended that not being the owners of the programmes, it could not share the licences with them as requested by Metro Digital.

The South African cable television company’s refusal to share its programmes licences, triggered the lawsuit filed by Metro Digital in 2021.

Metro Digital lost the suit at the High Court and subsequently filed an appeal against it.

Meanwhile, NBC had amended the broadcasting code to break the monopoly in the cable television market, increasing rights to a programme, and eliminating exclusivity to a show. NBC said the amendment is meant to increase the number of players in the pay-TV, and allow competition, considering several Nigerian-owned cable television firms have closed shops owing to MultiChoice’s monopoly in the market.

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