Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Multimesh drags Copyright Commission to Reps

Multimesh Communication Limited, has dragged the Nigerian Copy Rights Commission (NCC) to the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, over what the company termed as illegal closure of its broadcast stations, vandalization of transmission facilities and falsely accusing it of indulging in piracy.

ITRealms Online recalls that this was as a result of a dispute between Multimesh and HiTV, last year over some contractual agreement that went sour, in which HiTV reported Multimesh to the NCC, alleging it was pirating its programmes.

On the other hand, NCC said, it raided Multimesh station in Calabar, not knowing that it’s broadcast of HiTV programmes were based on a contractual agreement between the two companies, but refused to apologise.

Group Managing Director (GMD), Multimesh, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa in his submission to the Committee said that on January 8, 2009, operatives and agents of the NCC “vandalised, harassed and carted away transmitters and other equipments consequently shutting down the station on allegations by HiTV that they were pirating their programmes.

“In the course of this, we had to shut down transmission for three weeks. We lost about N36 million worth of equipments and about N30 million loss in revenue as we were unable to broadcast for about three weeks within the period,” he said.

Sir Godfrey also said his company suffered a lot of credibility problem by the mere fact that the NCC has branded Multimesh as pirates, insisting that his firm has a contractual agreement with HiTV to broadcast their signals in the South-South political zone with no restriction to channel.

“We cannot understand why this action was taken by the NCC, because we have already informed them by writing about the contractual agreement we have entered with HiTV before they raided us. We have tried to settle the matter between us, the NCC and HiTV after the intervention of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC),” he said.

According to Sir Godfrey, his firm is not asking for damages, but wanted NCC to apologise over their actions.

“So that we can restore our good name,” he declared.

The Legal Adviser to NCC at the session, Mr. Jacob Fagbemi told the committee it had no prior knowledge that the two parties had a contractual agreement before the incident.

“We are surprised to find out that the two companies had a contract. “We acted based on the petition that HiTV sent to us that Multimesh was pirating its programmes from its station in Calabar. After we have made our surveillance we confirmed that Multimesh was actually broadcasting HiTV programmes. So, we clamped down on the station. We did not do it to please HiTV, but to enforce the law”, he said.

Responding to a question by the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Hon. Henry Dickson (PDP/ Bayelsa) on if NCC would have raided the station if it knew of the agreement, Fagbemi said they would have acted differently, pointing out that it was not part of the Commission’s procedure to reach out to suspects before the raid.

Dickson also expressed worry over the development, saying it would look as if the Copyright agency was going out of its mandate to enforce contractual agreement that favours one side, instead of dealing with piracy or even bringing the two warring party to a roundtable.

Most of the members of the Committee equally expressed shock at the hard stand of NCC against Multimesh, more so that the company simply demanded an apology, not compensation, but promised to have a verdict that would be favourable to all parties in the case.

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