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Telcos Pocketed Majority of Profit from SMS Votes on BBNaija- Ugbe, Multichoice Boss

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John Ugbe, managing director, Multichoice Nigeria

John Ugbe, managing director, Multichoice Nigeria, in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of Digital Dialogue conference in Dubai, talked about the recently-concluded Big Brother Naija, DStv’s charges, the pay-TV model, social responsibility programmes, rain fade which is caused by bad weather, among other issues.

What is your reaction to the assertion that 170 million votes from BBNaija came exclusively from SMS, thereby yielding profit in the billions?

Ugbe: There has been a lot of focus on the figure 170million, but to set the record straight; 170million votes came from 49 African countries, and more than 90% came from online voting. Under 2% of the entire votes came from SMS voting.

Nigeria is the only country that was enabled to vote via SMS. The actual revenue generated from SMS voting could not be further from the much-touted purported figure. Over and above, the administration and platform set up costs, the majority of the profit went directly to the GSM and data service providers.

 

Is there a way to ensure BBNaiija is domiciled in Nigeria so that all the economics of the hosting and its associated benefits come to Nigeria?

Ugbe: Tinsel is domiciled in Nigeria and shown all over Africa. We just premiered a new epic series in Lagos. For this, we built an entire village from scratch to portray the realities of a village setting.

Our group of channels are called Africa Magic to reflect our African heritage. Nigeria has the biggest movie industry that is why our productions are domiciled in Nigeria.

For Hotel Majestic, we had to take over a hotel in Nigeria for two years as a set. It’s a lot of investment. Big Brother demands a lot of complexities and outfitting a house.

For the Big Brother shows, we set up one facility for Nigeria, Angolan and other editions. It makes sense from a production perspective. It is impractical to replicate sets across our operations in 49 African countries.

We choose the best location for each specific production. Big Brother Naija’s production team is made up of 90% Nigerians even though it wasn’t set in Nigeria – so a good deal of skills transfer occurs. Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) comes to Nigeria every year. Speaking as a Nigerian and an advocate of Nigeria, we keep looking at what it will entail to run it locally.

 

Have you considered implementing a ‘pay as you consume’ model considering that work and life schedules make it difficult to catch shows without steady power?

Ugbe: From a producer’s perspective – we have to buy the movie in full and we have to buy enough content to fill the channel and put it on air.

That’s what the pay-TV model prescribes anywhere in the world. We have to aggregate content for our different packages, this means ensuring there is something for everyone on the package depending on your interest and pocket strength. But there is a good spread of a variety of content across all packages. Everyone thinks of today.

From day one, you have to buy enough movies to make up the channel and sell that package to one person. It’s a risk as you cannot determine if after buying content, only one or ten people will subscribe.

If only one person does, you cut your losses and move on, but you continue to invest in content with the hope that more people will be interested in watching.

Regarding breaking off viewing according to your availability, the challenge is in the model of the business. We don’t know when your decoder is on or off. That makes it impossible to say I want to start billing because this customer has started viewing.

Pay as you go is a mobile network term. The mobile operators have the technical resources to measure what is being used. For pay-Tv on the other hand, it is not the same thing.

Last August, the Mayweather vs. McGregor Boxing match was delayed for close to 3 hours. The reason it was delayed is because of the technicalities of pay-per-view in the US. Pay-per-view for a fight like that would be $99 – that is more than your one-month subscription on Premium – about double.

However, we buy the fight and aggregate it for our Premium subscribers, who were able to record it, even when the live event did not happen on schedule. What we encourage our subscribers to do is download DStv Now, and you can watch all the content on your current subscription on the go, on your phone or tablet. You do not have to be bound by availability of power. Catch Up is there… Get it before the World Cup so it’s right there on your phone and your iPad and your laptop. Those are the innovations we’ll continue to make.

 

What social responsibility programmes do you invest in as an organisation?

Ugbe: We focus on education, health and youth and economic empowerment. Our MultiChoice Resource Centre project is our

education initiative that we have been active with for over 14 years. What we do here is work with the governments in each state to select beneficiary schools. We then provide audio-visual equipment (which include a dish, decoder with educational channels, TV, generating set, tables, chairs, UPS), to bring learning and the school’s curriculum to life.

We set up our education package in the chosen schools, train the teachers on how to select relevant programs intended to illuminate and animate information that would otherwise have remained theoretical or textbook based.

The MRCs are present in over 400 schools across 33 states in Nigeria, tens of thousands of students have benefitted from these centres since inception. The feedback has been astounding.

The rate of passing school leaving exams has improved. Several beneficiary students have gone on to become medical doctors, lawyers, and a good number are working in several other professions, as a result of this foundation that changed how they learn and retain information.

I have experienced how this centre is used and saw how students responded when they saw how a tsunami actually happens. They saw it happen on our platform and this made it easier for them to imagine how destructive a tsunami could be.

Also in terms of education, we have partnered with Eutelsat for many years to roll out DStv-Eutelsat Star Awards, a satellite-based competition for secondary school students across Africa.

The students are required to answer questions on how satellites can be used to improve processes, the advantages of satellite and so on.

These questions need to be answered through an essay or a poster. Last year, a Nigerian; Emmanuel Ochenjele emerged overall winner from the poster category. He met a real life astronaut – Claudie Haignere, right here in Nigeria, and not long ago, he returned from Paris, as part of his winning prize, where he went to the Eutelsat headquarters to witness how rockets are assembled. This has changed his perspective forever.

We implement our health responsibility by supporting the Sickle Cell Foundation. We have been partners for many years. We support them because the statistics of how sickle cell anaemia affects Nigerians paints a dire picture.

The foundation seeks funds to carry out research, treat and inform sufferers. Their key objective is creating awareness on how to minimize its effects, research on how to avoid and ultimately cure the ailment. On our part, we offer support through creating awareness, which we do on an ongoing basis through educational videos, community outreach programs, fundraising and other initiatives to support them in what they do.

Our GOtv Boxing Next Gen clinics support the growth of boxing, which we brought out of near extinction in Nigeria.

Over and above the boxing matches which provide an avenue for the boxers to earn a living, the clinics provide tips on welfare, training and psychological support to these young ones.

Some of the young boxers were picked from our Next Generation Search (for talented and passionate amateurs), they have now proven themselves in mainstream boxing and have won millions over the years. Ultimately, we train them to go professional, so that one of our boxers can proudly fly the Nigerian flag internationally.

 

Is it possible to put my subscription on hold when I travel for a month?

Ugbe: Yes we have made it possible for you to do that. You can put your subscription on hold when you travel for up to two weeks each time, twice a year.

One of the things we thrive on is technology. The dual view decoder was first introduced in the world by MultiChoice. Digital Satellite TV (DStv) was only second after the US. When we build the DTT network we had Russians coming to study it. We look to the future for what is possible to do.

 

Recently, MultiChoice ran a promo asking subscribers to pay for two months and get one month free, but there were complaints from customers who didn’t get the promised month. What is your response to this?

 

Ugbe: It is true that we ran a retention offer late last year. When we received feedback that some customers did not get the free month on schedule, we identified those customers that were affected and we fixed it. We introduced a new process which helps to identify those who received the offer, and ensure that get the benefit immediately.

Additionally, in terms of improving on technology, we upgrade our decoder software from time to time to improve customer viewing experience. We ran a free swop campaign where we asked customers to bring in obsolete decoders for a free swop.

It’s all in line with always striving to improve our offers to our customers. We also introduced tollfree lines a few years ago. These numbers are available on our website and social media care platforms. On Twitter, the address is @DStvNgCare.

 

Is the call centre 24 hours? DStv should have a 24-hour call centre.

Ugbe: This is good feedback and something we tested in December. However, there are a few challenges with labour laws. So we’ve been looking at how best our customers can reach us at any time of the day. We will communicate changes and updates in due course.

 

The strength of your signal is still a problem, especially when it rains. Why is that the case?

Ugbe: To shed some light on that, it is called rainfade. Satellite signal from the KU Band is susceptible to weather.

I have taken pictures of my TV screen when I’ve been in New York or other parts of the world and I experienced interruption as a result of bad weather. It’s not a Nigerian problem. Your DSTV will work even with 40% signal.

There is a need to boost the signal to have less interruption. We also make available quality cables to reduce interference. If rain comes in it will affect the quality.

We recommend getting a certified installer to conduct regular checks to verify signal strength. Also, some dishes have not been checked in up to five years. Regular checks ensure that your dish works optimally, thereby reducing rainfade.

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Star Trek inspired a lot of Americans to go into science and to the moon. What does Big Brother inspire among Nigerians?

Ugbe: We are in pay TV, we are in entertainment. Entertainment is a mix of fun, inspiration and education. Remember, reality TV is reality.

This is what happens. The fact that they are on TV doesn’t change it. Entertainment can inspire in a variety of ways. A lot of people have come out of Big Brother and have grown into entertainment powerhouses. It’s a platform for exposure and advancement.

Furthermore, we have a lot of educational and kids content. We ask our viewers to set up parental guidance so you can control what your child views.

The parents have and have always had the control. Kids, these days, have smartphones and can download anything, but the blame is often put on TV. You can opt out of a channel or block it completely at any time. We put the power into your hands. And back to Big Brother, we can learn from their interaction in the house. They have tasks that promote nationalism, patriotism. You see those contestants singing the national anthem proudly. When they talk about malaria day, we use it as an opportunity to educate. A lot of the tasks are subtle but meant to inspire and lead.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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MURIC Boasts it Got NBC to Ban Falz Video

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Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has said that after unsuccessfully trying to get Falz, a Nigerian singer to take down his viral video “This is Nigeria” they ‘ambushed’ him using National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

 

Recall that the NBC had a few days back banned the song it alleged is “laced with vulgar lyrics”.

 

But in a statement, Monday by Ishaq Akintola, MURIC director, claimed credit for the NBC’s action adding that they avoided going to court as that might take years to resolve.

 

“We asked Falz to withdraw the video or we would sue him,” the statement read.

 

“Instead of showing remorse he dared us. We knew he could delay the court case for years because he is a lawyer and he would use every trick in the books to frustrate us. That was why he was boasting.

Falz, a Nigerian singer

“Therefore, instead of going to court, we decided to ambush him by sending a petition to the video board. This week, the NBC banned the video and others like it.

 

“He should be the one to go to court now if he likes. Let him go and show how brilliant he is in court.

 

“He and his fans laughed at us when we complained about his provocative and vulgar video. But there is no doubt that he who laughs last laughs best. It is hoped that Nigerian artistes will borrow a leaf from this episode.”

 

The group commended the NBC they said  “Falz and other artistes should encourage the youth to emulate our heroes instead of pushing them to ape rogues. Finally, we commend NBC and the video censors board for acting swiftly.”

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NGO Calls for Sack of Kawu, NBC Boss over Hate Speech

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Paradigm Initiative, Pan-African digital rights advocacy group, has called on the Acting President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to terminate the appointment of Modibbo Kawu as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, for alleged engagement in spreading hate speech.

 

The group made the call in a letter sent to the acting president last Wednesday, August 8.

 

The group urged the acting president to relieve the DG of the NBC of his duties “to allow for fair investigation of comments attributed to him and to serve as a needed example and precedent for politicians and public officers irrespective of political affiliation”

Modibbo Kawu

Mr. Kawu’s duty as the Director General of the NBC entails ensuring that the execution of the policies of the commission and its day to day administration is carried out smoothly.

 

The organization further noted that “in carrying out this responsibility… several sanctions and heavy fines have been imposed by the DG against radio, television stations and media houses who have been adjudged as promoting “anti-democratic” content such as misinformation and content capable of inciting violence or causing disaffection in the polity.”

 

However, a Premium Times report on the 5th of August 2018 revealed that Mr. Kawu engaged in posting a string of undemocratic messages on a Whatsapp group of northern editors and intellectuals.

 

In the said group, he made statements of tribal and ethnic implications; capable of inciting hate.

 

According to Boye Adegoke, Program Manager in Paradigm Initiative, “Given the sensitive nature of Mr. Modibbo’s position and role in the affairs of the NBC, it is highly unbecoming of him to be seen creating and promoting such inciting content.

 

“Not only are his actions inappropriate and unbefitting of a public servant but also unacceptable of the Director General of the Commission responsible for amongst other things, regulating and controlling the broadcasting Industry in Nigeria.

 

“At a time when the Nigerian government is putting in efforts to curb fake news, hate speech and harmful content, it is almost laughable that the very person put in the frontline of championing this cause is reported to be engaging in acts such as this,” Adegoke concluded.

 

Paradigm Initiative ended the letter reminding the acting president that Nigeria is a democratic nation in which no one should be above the law and in which equity and justice prevail.

 

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GEM, COSON Partner on Intellectual Property Rights

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In a bid to properly educate and enlighten the Nigerian populace and the entertainment industry in particular, the Growth and Empowerment Project, GEM, funded by the World Bank and domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, has entered into a new partnership with Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, Nigeria’s wave making collective management organization.

In the partnership, GEM has domiciled at COSON House, a just developed tool kit for education in intellectual property with emphasis on copyright, aimed at ensuring a well-rounded, global understanding of the subject in Nigeria.

At a meeting held at the boardroom of COSON House, Ikeja, on Thursday, during which the partnership was sealed, Mr. Bello Abba Yakasai, Cluster Manager, GEM Project, said that the initiative was borne out of the need to engender a culture of respect for intellectual property rights among practitioners in the industry and users of intellectual property in the country.

This, he said appeared to have been difficult in the past, owing to the ambiguous nature of the subject.

Yakasai said: “What we aim to achieve with this tool kit is to simplify the grey areas with respect to Intellectual Property so as to make it understandable by everyone.

“The IP manual, we are certain, will bring about a reorientation amongst everyone; be it the owners of the intellectual property or the end users”.

The tool kit developed under the GEM project by Mr. John Asein, an internationally respected expert on copyright and a former Director of the Nigerian Copyright Institute will be formerly presented to the intellectual property community at a special event, “Let’s Talk Copyright” (LTC) which will hold at the COSON House Arena on September 1, 2018.

Let’s Talk Copyright will be the climax of the 2018 No Music Day celebration.

As has been the practice over the last eight years, different representatives of COSON, in a Media Blitz, will simultaneously be at key broadcast stations across the country on September 1, the annual No Music Day, to discuss with Nigerians the intriguing subject of intellectual property which is shaping the new global economy.

After the Media Blitz, various artistes, performers, movie makers, broadcasters, legal practitioners and the media are expected to descend on COSON House for “Let’s Talk Copyright” (LTC) where the new Tool Kit will be unveiled by the creator, Mr. John Asein supported by officials of GEM and the World Bank.

According to Mr. Yakasai, the decision to partner with COSON on the project is in recognition of the unassailable impact that COSON has made across the continent with respect to intellectual property.

In the words of Mr. Yakasai , “COSON, more than any other institution in Nigeria, has shown that it has the capacity to manage such an important resource and to put it to good use for the larger society” Responding to Mr. Yakasai, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji thanked the GEM team for their continued confidence in COSON.

He said that with COSON as custodian of the IP tool kit, GEM and its partner agencies can rest assured that the tools will be properly deployed and that the message will get to every stakeholder in the industry In attendance at the meeting were the COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji, Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Chibueze Moses Okereke and COSON Head of Legal, Ms. Simi Wash-Pam.

 

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