Appeal Court Orders MultiChoice to Sublicense Channels to Nigerian Company

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The court of appeal sitting in Port Harcourt has ordered MultiChoice to sublicense some channels to Metro Digital, pursuant to the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC’s) code.

MultiChoice is the South African owner of the satellite television services, DStv and GOtv — popular subscription-based platforms in Nigeria.

CBN

Metro Digital Limited is a multi-channel terrestrial digital satellite service provider in Nigeria.

The judgement, Wednesday, on Metro Digital Appeal No CA/PH/188/2021 against Multichoice, South African owner of satellite television services, DStv and GOtv, also charged the 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 judgement 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 FG, through the Minister for Information Culture, Lai Mohammed, Amended the MBC Code, removing exclusivity, monopoly, from operators in the industry.

Counsel to Metro Digital, Anetochuchukwu Nworgu, narrated that, “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 you 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 for 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 MBC as regulator has the responsibility under the code to arbitrate and intervene 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, MBC and the Minister for Information and Culture.”

In a judgement by the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Justice Turaki Mohammed, ruled that Multichoice denied being licensee of the requested content and that Metro Dogital failed to controvert that claim and unable to prove its case.

Nworgu added, “We knew that judgement was not contemplated by the guiding Code, so we proceeded to Court of Appeal. Within 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) gives self, you are under obligation to sublet. That was our contention in our application to the Appeal Court.”

The lead judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered by Hon Justice Olabode Akehingbe, ruled that the lower court aired when it struck out the name of the Information Minister, as not being necessary party, setting aside the lower court judgement 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.

For Nworgu, “This is victory for Nigeria, broadcast industry, victory for Nigeria’s poor masses who have been under exploitation. It is victory for myself as a subscriber of DSTV with their exorbitant rates. It is within their rights to proceed to Supreme Court, but remember truth does not need clutches to stand. It is lie that will always limp. If you don’t comply it turns contempt.”

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