House of Reps wants MultiChoice/DSTV to reverse tariff hike

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The chairman, house of representatives ad hoc committee investigating the non-implementation of PAYGO by MultiChoice/DSTV, Mr. Unyime Idem has slammed the company for increasing its subscription tariff.

The lawmaker who spoke when the managing director/chief executive officer of MultiChoice/DSTV, Mr. John Ugbe, appeared before the committee yesterday in Abuja described the increment in monthly subscription as “unacceptable” and called for the adoption of the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) model.

He said given the current situation occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, MultiChoice/DSTV should suspend the subscription tariff increment.

The lawmaker said MultiChoice was not sensitive to the plight of Nigerians for increasing the tariff of its various bouquets and anchoring it on VAT increment from 5 to 7.5 per cent.

He added that most DSTV bouquet price tariff was more than 2.5 per cent increment, unlike many other companies, local and international which provide palliatives to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed and the acting director general of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), confirmed to the committee that PAYGO model was possible.

The chairman said the committee was committed to the full implementation of the PAYGO, pay- per-view and pay-per-watch model in Nigeria.

A member of the committee, Mr. Adedeji Babajide, called for sincerity on the part of the company pointing out that Nigerians are currently going through a lot as a result of COVID-19

“Look at the hardship Nigerians are going through and you have done two increments within few months, this is not the right time for you to increase subscription,” he said.

He asked why the company was not patronising NICOMSAT and obeyed the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (NBC) partially.

Responding, Ugbe said the company would not be able to implement the PAYGO policy.

He said pay per view (PPV) is most times confused with PAYGO model deployed by mobile telecommunication companies.

“The PAYGO model as offered in the telecommunication business is a metered service where consumers are billed only for the service they consume and not for a fixed period.

“Telecommunications companies are able to offer PAYGO services because they operate a two-way communication system in which they are able to determine when a consumer is connected, the service consumed and duration of time the consumer is connected,” he said.

He explained that satellite broadcasting is linear, not a two-way system as satellite broadcasters are unable to determine when a subscriber is connected and/or watching which channel.

On the hike in subscription tariffs, Ugbe blamed it on high cost of production, especially the increment of valued added tax, poor power supply leading to provision of alternative power sources, increment in the pump price of petrol and diesel with which it runs its operations.

He further stated that while Nigerians were criticising it for not giving palliatives to its subscribers, it supported the federal government with N1 billion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a tough environment for a lot of reasons. When we did the price adjustment, it was in response to the new Finance Bill (now an Act) and if you look at it, you will see that we were even late in making those changes.

“The adjustment at that time was just as a result of the new Finance Bill. The committee is also aware of the increase in the cost of living, petrol, diesel; these are very basic inputs that go into our service.

“We are part of the broadcasting industry that did not shut down for one day; we had to keep everything running.”

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