Gov­ern­ment loses bil­lions of naira to film in­dus­try ne­glect

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - ISSUE -

eq­uity mar­ket had gone bust, leav­ing us grov­el­ing all over for debt.” With th­ese of­fers com­ing on­board, what is the place of the coun­try’s film in­dus­try? And how can both in­dus­tries per­haps work hand in hand for a com­mon goal of con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy?

For ex­am­ple, in a de­vel­oped film in­dus­try like China, in 2007, its film pro­duc­tion went up to 500 films yearly, with 378 mil­lion TV house­holds and 152 mil­lion cable TV house­holds. Its dig­i­tal cable TV, ac­cord­ing to the data by Cmr-union in De­cem­ber 2008, China has 47.65 mil­lion dig­i­tal cable TV, with sub­scribers up to 97.39 per cent yearly.

The con­tem­po­rary Nige­rian film in­dus­try at in­cep­tion seemed to have been an all-com­ers af­fair, as there were no set stan­dards to check those ven­tur­ing into the in­dus­try. The stereo­type has not changed in spite of at­tempts by stake­hold­ers to sani­tise the in­dus­try. It was also ar­gued that the gov­ern­ment has only been play­ing the spec­ta­tor role, only ob­serv­ing the sit­u­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment in the in­dus­try. The gov­ern­ment is los­ing bil­lions of naira for ne­glect­ing the sec­tor. For ex­am­ple, in 2004, star artistes earned as much as N2m as fee per role in film pro­duc­tions, and such in­comes were not taxed, which is not the case in de­vel­oped film in­dus­tries.

Re­call that in 2002, Nol­ly­wood was ranked the third largest film in­dus­try in the world, and at that time, many thought with ad­e­quate gov­ern­ment sup­port, the in­dus­try was ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing the largest in the world. In fact, in 2004, it was spec­u­lated that the in­dus­try had gen­er­ated N300 bil­lion into the coun­try’s econ­omy; cre­at­ing over 300, 000 jobs for young peo­ple, (Aderi­nokun’s

The vet­eran film­maker, Chief Ed­die Ug­bomah, lamented that the in­dus­try had been bas­tardised and gov­ern­ment seems not to care. Ac­cord­ing to him, “I don’t care if they set up new 300 Pay TV chan­nels. It is only in this coun­try that I have found out that peo­ple set up Pay TV sta­tions to kill an in­dus­try and the gov­ern­ment is watch­ing and the pro­fes­sion­als are watch­ing.” He re­vealed that when DSTV came in 1995, in a grand style, then, he was the Chair­man at Film Cor­po­ra­tion, and he re­mem­bered the un­der­cur­rent that went on be­cause of his po­si­tion.

“To­day, ev­ery film­maker is a pau­per, no­body is watch­ing the films any­more, be­cause, they only need to pay N2000 a month to have ac­cess. Now, if th­ese pay TV sta­tions would give just five per cent of the money to the in­dus­try, we would still sur­vive but no, the in­dus­try has to wait to get their col­lat­eral from Bank of In­dus­try.”

He pointed that he fore­saw how the emer­gence of Pay TV would be a big threat to the in­dus­try years ago, when one of them was launched in Nige­ria, but no one lis­tened to him.

Ug­bomah stated, “How many films are be­ing shot in Nige­ria? I am not talk­ing about home videos. Cin­e­mas own­ers now want to be­come movie pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors.”

He fur­ther lamented fail­ure of gov­ern­ment to tap into the po­ten­tial of the in­dus­try, which he said, “is big­ger than oil; it can cre­ate jobs, en­ter­tain and make peo­ple. The gov­ern­ment said it wants to give tax re­bate to the in­dus­try and users, so that when you go to the Cinema, you get a cer­tain per­cent­age, and even the Cin­e­mas what do they put there? For­eign films. Now, be­cause the econ­omy is bad, some cin­e­mas are be­gin­ning to show Nige­rian films.”

On how th­ese new chan­nels can op­er­ate dif­fer­ently and gain sup­port, Ug­bomah said, “If they can spon­sor Nige­rian con­tent, I sup­port them, just like Dan­gote, us­ing money that he has to help Nige­ri­ans. Look at Iroko TV; they only com­mis­sion things that are break­ing the law. Mul­tichoice would also com­mis­sion films that are not in our in­ter­est and say it is cable, and no one is there to cen­sor or sanction them. No copy­right, no cen­sor board and that is why most peo­ple get away with al­most ev­ery­thing.”

Speak­ing fur­ther, he said even the lo­cal chan­nels are in­ca­pable of air­ing in­de­pen­dently with­out hook­ing to th­ese plat­forms, “they can­not go from Char­ity Bus stop to Mile 2,” he joked.

He ad­vised that the in­dus­try could not go any­where “un­less the gov­ern­ment comes in and kick them out for us to sur­vive. They have cre­ated max­i­mum dam­age; do you know what it means to have a mar­ket of 180 mil­lion peo­ple? They make this money and cry there is no money.

“I am hav­ing sleep­less night when I see the in­dus­try I suf­fer to cre­ate; I drove away the In­di­ans, Lebanese and Amer­i­cans when they tried to en­ter our mar­ket, through the sup­port of Obasanjo and to­day, where am I? Nowhere. What is African about Mul­tichoice Movies, what are they teach­ing?

He tasked the gov­ern­ment to set proper business con­di­tions that would aid the in­dus­try when such pro­pos­als come. He, how­ever, stated, “the gov­ern­ment cre­ated Film Cor­po­ra­tion and cen­sor’s board, but what are they do­ing for the in­dus­try? The gov­ern­ment has cre­ated six paras­tatals for art and cul­ture, but what are they do­ing; they only col­lect sub­ven­tions, share the money and that is all. What is their dy­namism?”

For movie pro­ducer, Don Pe­dro Obaseki, Con­tent would be a ma­jor chal­lenge for them in terms of foot­ball, pro­duc­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. “It is dif­fi­cult for any un­se­ri­ous player to come on­board.

Ac­cord­ing to him, “Brand com­pe­ti­tion is good, and I wish for them to sur­vive. They should do a sur­vey; a di­rect con­sumer sur­vey.”

An­other ex­pert, Fes­tus Igeni­wari ar­gued that the Pay TV in­dus­try in Nige­ria was a level-play­ing field for ev­ery­one se­ri­ous and ca­pa­ble enough to of­fer Nige­ri­ans the best value for money in world-class con­tent.

Ac­cord­ing to him, “Nige­ri­ans need to re­alise that, as a rule, you don’t start off a marathon by sprint­ing; and when a claim sounds too good to be true, it usu­ally is. While I wouldn’t bug any­one with pay-tv lingo, it is now per­ti­nent for Nige­ri­ans to grasp the rudi­ments of how the in­dus­try works; and the in­dices rep­re­sented in the chain, right up to their tele­vi­sion sets”.

Igeni­wari com­mended Dstv for con­tin­u­ing to live up to its claim of of­fer­ing the best TV en­ter­tain­ment in Africa viz align­ing with the en­ter­tain­ment needs of its sub­scribers. Adding, “When Dstv lost the rights of the Premier League to Hitv, it stepped up its game by re­in­forc­ing its lo­cal con­tent of­fer­ing on Africa Magic. Thus, in its try­ing time, it saw an op­por­tu­nity to beef of its ar­mor as the king of con­tent in its mar­ket, us­ing the threat to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing lo­cal con­tent fur­ther, which then proved, once again, to be a com­pelling need among Nige­ri­ans.”

Obaseki

Lai Mo­hammed, min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion and Cul­ture

Ug­bomah

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