18th January, 2016
Arise TV, London-based global news network, owned by Nigeria’s flamboyant media baron, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, has been shut and on the verge being declared bankrupt.
According to report by The Independent Newspaper of London, Ofcom, the United Kingdom’s broadcast regulator, has found ARISE TV in breach of its licence for failing to pay its annual licence fee by the required date.
The watchdog is facing calls for Arise, which broadcasts on Sky (but was removed from Freeview late last year) to be stripped of its licence.
The newspaper noted that the Television network faces a High Court winding up petition brought by a British television company, having only settled a similar action brought by another British publisher last year.
Obaigbena’s station is also said to be owing global news agencies which supply its pictures, including Reuters and Associated Press.
On 14 January, Arise, one of African television networks operating out of London, vanished from the airwaves.
The message beneath the logo of the station, which broadcasts on Sky channel 519 and which operates from prime studios overlooking Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, simply read: “Normal service will resume as soon as possible.”
But The Independent’s check revealed that the channel’s problems are more than transmission challenges.
Obaigbena has employed many senior British journalists and is being pursued over a trail of debts – estimated at £3m and including nearly £1m owed to the station’s own workers.
It was said that the station previously went off air late last year as 62 Arise workers, supported by the NUJ and Bectu media unions, began collective legal action for £825,000 unpaid wages.
A skeleton team returned to work at New Zealand House on 11 January, 2016 after receiving cash advances of around £250 a day.
“Their view is that if they let the channel die there is little or no chance of retrieving the fees they are owed,” one of the team told The Independent.
David Lee, who resigned as a production editor and claims he is owed £20,000, said: “It’s disgusting, now I’m faced with a tax bill that I can’t pay. Two staff in the New York office have lost their houses because they were unable to make their monthly mortgage repayments.”
Obaigbena, the publisher of This Day, has explained his financial problems in terms of “the collapse of oil prices” and the subsequent restrictions in Nigeria on foreign exchange.
He noted that almost all Arise workers were freelance and claimed to have uncovered a wages scam.
“We are in dispute…with some who made invalid claims which we discovered during a routine audit. The courts may have to determine this. Some saw Arise as a gravy train to take advantage of. They are wrong,” Obaigbena told The Independent.
Nduka Obaigbena, sometimes known as “The Duke”, has been photographed in the company of George Bush and Tony Blair, and hangs out with stars including Naomi Campbell and Beyonce.