Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Multimesh may sue Copyrights Commission

*Over alleged piracy

The last is not heard of the misunderstanding between Multimesh Communications Limited and Entertainment Highway Limited, right owners of the English Premiere League, EPL and operators of HiTV, over rebroadcast rights, as Multimesh is considering dragging the Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC) to court, for unlawful, forceful and damaging of its transmission equipment worth millions of Naira.

Multimesh, a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) operator, which hinges on wireless telecommunications offerings to deploy its Television (Tv) broadcasting, has insisted that NCC raid was illegal.

ITRealms Online recalled that a fortnight ago, NCC enforcement team led by one, Mr. Ajala, and made up of armed police men, reportedly raided Multimesh office in Calabar, Cross River State and took away transmission equipment and damaged quite a number in the process.

According to the chief executive officer, Multimesh, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, in a petition dated January 8, 2009, addressed to the Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Mike Aondaokaa, and copied the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the raid was malicious because the bone of contention was not piracy, but a business dispute.

Sir Godfrey maintained that it was a misunderstanding and not piracy issue as claimed by Entertainment Highway, even as he decried that NCC instead of resolving the issue amicably deployed its enforcement team to Multimesh office in Calabar.

He described the NCC raid as “maliciously vandalizing its station in Calabar for reasons best known to them.”

However, following the prompt intervention of the National Broadcasting Commission, the misunderstanding was put to rest with some clauses and agreement.

But the echoes from Multimesh, as shown by ITRealms Online investigations is that the firm is on the verge of engaging the Copyrights Commission with a law suit to replace most, if not all the equipment damaged during the purported piracy raid on the company.

Our investigations, also confirmed that advances have been made for the procedure to ensure it followed due process, beginning with the assessment of the damage and cost of replacement.

Effort at gathering the total sum was not successful, last weekend, as the chief executive officer of Multimesh, Sir Godfrey, was said to have traveled.

In a telephone conversation with ITRealms Online, the Director, Public Affairs at the Copyrights Commission, Mr. Olisa Obi, confirmed the raid and eventual resolution, while saying he read it in the newspapers, because he has been on vacation.

Obi was emphatic that NCC, though a government agency do not destroy or demolish people’s equipment in the bid to enforce the law.

“We don’t demolish things, we can dismantle but we don’t demolish or destroy,” he declared.

Obi, who reminded ITRealms Online that he was a director of enforcement for over three years at the commission, hence he was sure NCC officials did not destroy any equipment.

“We can only dismantle equipment and seize them during raids,” he said.

Meanwhile, details of the resolution reached by NBC between Multimesh and owners of HiTV, over rights to rebroadcast English Premier League (EPL) signals in the South East and South South, have begun to emerge.

In the meeting held at NBC’s headquarters in Abuja, its officials led by the Director General, Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa, extracted an agreement from the feuding parties, just as it was established that a contract had earlier existed between the two organisations since 2007.

This, industry observers, said gave credence to the claims by Multimesh that what transpired was a business dispute and not a case of piracy.

The agreement signed read in part that in “Pursuant to Section 2 (1) (Q) of the National Broadcasting Commission Act No. 38 of 1992 (as amended), the NBC 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 EPL matches.”

Also resolved was that the Channel Carriage Agreement signed in 2007 between the parties still subsists; that Multimesh Communications Limited has agreed to pay for Calabar, Port Harcourt and Yenogoa where the premiership matches are being broadcast.

Additionally, Multimesh was directed to send a three (3) months upfront payment in advance and another three on post dated cheques, covering the season which ends in May 2009 to Entertainment Highway Limited.

This deal was confirmed on telephone by the chief executive, HiTV, Mr. Toyin Subair.

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