The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) seems set to engage maverick media entrepreneur, Nduka Obaigbena, in a titanic battle as it declared Wednesday that the businessman’s new television channel, Arise TV, had not been licensed to operate in Nigeria.
Mr Obaigbena announced a "soft launch" of the 24-hour news channel on February 3, saying the station would broadcast from "its main news centres in London, New York, Johannesburg and Lagos" and "supported by a further eight bureaux around the globe stretching from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro."
He said a sister channel, ARISE 360, which will be entertainments-based with fashion, music sport and pay per view films, will start broadcasting toward the end of the year.
But in a statement Wednesday, the broadcast industry regulator in Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission, said Arise TV had not been licensed to operate within Nigeria’s borders.
"Arise News has not applied to the commission for a broadcast licence and does not have a licence to operate in Nigeria’s territory," NBC Director-General Yomi Bolarinwa, said in the statement.
He said the commission’s attention was drawn to the publication in Thisday Newspaper of Feb. 4 which said that the TV station would “soft launch on Feb. 5 following a two-day test broadcast. The said publication claimed that the broadcast would emanate from London, New York, Johannesburg and Lagos.’’
Mr. Bolarinwa said the commission had been inundated with enquiries on the legal status of the station since the news of the launch broke, and that the TV station did not have a licence to operate in the country.
The NBC boss continued, "The NBC wishes to draw the attention of the public to the fact that the said television operation has not applied to the commission for a broadcast licence in accordance with the provisions of the law governing the establishment and operation of broadcasting stations in Nigeria as provided in Sections 2(1) (b)(c), 2(2) and 11 of the NBC Act No. 38, 1999.
"Section 2(2) states that no person shall operate or use any apparatus or premises for the transmission of sound or vision by cable, television, radio, satellite or any other medium of broadcast from anywhere in Nigeria except under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
"Section 11 states that a request by a person for authority to own, establish or operate a radio, sound, television, cable or satellite station shall be by way of an application for a licence addressed to the Director-General of the commission and in the form prescribed in the second schedule to this Act."
It is not known how Mr. Obaigbena plans to broadcast from Nigeria without a license.
He could not be reached to comment for this story as calls to his telephone failed to connect.
The publisher of Lagos-based daily, ThisDay, and Editor-in-Chief of the defunct ThisWeek magazine, Mr. Obaigbena is known for ambitious projects. He once published ThisDay in South Africa.
But he soon shut down operations after he had a cash crunch, especially given the fact that South Africa is not a terrain where publishers can leave staff without salaries for months.
In a statement announcing the launch of the station, Mr. Obaigbena said Arise TV would "rival existing giants in the global market."
He added, "We will attract a global audience interested in emerging markets, developing countries and evolving politics. With headquarters and bureaux throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, we are ready to speak to our audience and give them a voice as well.
"We are a new international network established to reflect the new world order not hardwired to the old and built to reflect the modern way news is consumed. Nowhere is this more important than in the emerging economies.’
"There will be no state funding and no state agenda. Our coverage will be balanced, comprehensive and completely independent.
"Our efforts will concentrate on robust journalism anchored on imperatives of the marketplace."