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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Multimesh petitions FG over closure by NCC

... As HiTV insists on violation

Management of Calabar-based Microwave Multi-channels Distribution Systems (MMDS) operator, Multimesh Communications Limited, has petitioned the Federal Government on the closure of its office over alleged pirated programming by operatives of the Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC).

Just as Entertainment Highway insisted on its position that the firm’s rights were violated by Multimesh.

The petition by Multimesh dated Thursday, January 8, 2009, and addressed to the honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Mike Aondaokaa and signed by the managing director and chief executive officer of Multimesh Communications Limited, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, denied the allegation that the firm operated illegally in its transactions with Entertainment Highway, right owners of the English Premier League (EPL) in the country.

ITRealms Online recalls last Thursday, officials of NCC with policemen raided and shut Multimesh office in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

According to the letter, on the said date, a team of armed mobile police men in the company of Mr. Ajala from NCC in Lagos stormed “our Television Station in Calabar, broke our offices and safe and carted away our transmitters, computers, files, invoices, receipt booklets and various other valuables and shut down our station, on the guise of a false complaint by Hitv Ltd.”

Ohuabunwa, in the letter explained that as the second largest MMDS cable company licensed by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), to carry out the business of broadcasting and with a subsisting three year agreement with Hitv Ltd to retransmit the English Premier League in South South and South East of Nigeria, with initial take off in Rivers State, Multimesh cannot be called a pirate.

“For the purpose of clarity, we have a subsisting three years agreement with Hitv and have paid for the rights for Rivers State; we have provided Hitv a N30,000,000 million, Bank Guarantee with another N18,000,000m upfront payment made into their account with GTB. We are not pirates as falsely reported by Mr. Toyin Subair,” Ohuabunwa stated in the letter.

Sir Godfrey further appealed to the Minister for his personal intervention, saying that what happened was that since the initial execution of the agreement and payments made to Hitv Ltd.

“We have had a lingering misunderstanding over the rebroadcast rights and channel carriage license,” he said, noting that the development was well reported to the NCC and the NBC.

“The latter (NBC) was shunned by Subair in their attempt to settle the differences,” he said.

Raising a special complaint against the Director General of NCC, Ohuabunwa noted that Mr. DG had from inception of the relationship between Multimesh and HiTV been intimated with all the developments, but chose not to do anything, instead he send his men and policemen to raid Multimesh office.

Sir Godfrey alleged that Hitv plan is to sustain very strict monopoly and exclusivity which are in sharp contrast with the NBC laws.

“My Lord, we are of the strong opinion that Mr. Toyin Subair and Management of Hitv and Highway Entertainment Ltd are deliberately harassing us and other cable operators in Nigeria in their greedy plan to maintain monopoly and exclusivity in airing the English Premier League (EPL) in Nigeria, which is completely against the National Broadcasting Code and the Federal Government Policy in deregulating and deepening the broadcast industry in Nigeria,” Multimesh boss said, insisting that two clauses under Dispute Resolution in contract state have not been exhausted before the current NCC closure.

In his response via a telephone chat, the chief executive of HiTV, Mr. Toyin Subair, told ITRealms Online that he has one question for Multimesh, “Was there any agreement with us to cover which state?”

According to him, the only relative relationship HiTV has with Multimesh was of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and even at that, it was inconclusive.
“Port Harcourt was the only place we discussed with them and we have not even agreed yet,” he declared.

Entertainment Highway, he said, believes in doing business the right way, hence, everything they are offering to the Nigerian public have been paid for ahead of time.
Lamenting that what most of these so-called cable operators in the country are doing is to engage a companies like his (Entertainment Highway) for the first time in a location and afterwards went ahead to broadcast it nationwide.

“They never intended to do business the right way,” he decried, explaining further that usually Entertainment Highway acquire its rights with three years bank guarantee, but local cable operators would want to pay monthly, which does not mean well for his company.

Attributing this kind of attitude to the problems that have bedeviled the industry before the coming of Entertainment Highway, about 18 months ago, Subair stressed that it is not even right for the economic growth of the country and advised Nigerians and cable operators precisely to learn how to do business right.

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