What Nigerians should expect from digital switchover

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Having missed deadlines twice, in 2012 and 2015, Nigerians are uncertain about what to expect and the possibility of achieving the June 2017 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the digital switchover of television broadcasting.

Director-general of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, has repeatedly assured Nigerians that the process of migration from analogue to digital broadcasting would be concluded before the deadline, having successfully launched the pilot phase of the scheme in Jos and Abuja.

With barely two months to the June deadline for digital migration, otherwise known as digital switchover (DSO), not much has been heard about the manufacturers of set-top boxes or the awareness campaign.

Kawu, in one of his statements, said, “I will also like to inform you that we have commenced the settlement of all indebtedness arising from the contracts awarded in respect of the DSO. We have effected payments to the set-top boxes manufacturers. Settlement of their monies came to about N5 billion. The next phase of payment we are processing is what is due to the DSO backbone group, our signal distributors, ITS and Pinnacle Communications Limited. These payments would help our various stakeholder groups to meet their obligations as well as deepen commitment to the entire effort to achieve a nation-wide DSO”.

Today, more people are familiar with analogue broadcasting, with a restricted choice of programming due to limited space for channels, having to tune the TV to their region to pick up broadcasts or play with the antennae to get clear, uninterrupted signal.

Industry watchers have noted that Nigerians could expect better quality picture production, signal and sufficient local content with the DSO.

Chairman, Nigeria Information and Communication Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), Mr. Emmanuel Okonji, said Nigeria should expect sufficient and quality local content programmes.

“There is no gainsaying the easy access to channels as well as the affordability of set-top boxes. There won’t be need for lack of signal because the country has moved digitally,” he said.

Another industry watcher, Yemi Blaq, added that subscribers would have the option to choose from numerous services available.

Nigerians should also expect job opportunities that alleviate poverty in the long run because the government had issued a similar directive with Kenya on the local production of the set-top Boxes (STBs). Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, reently said that at least 30 regional channels and 10 national channels, catering for local music, news, film, children programming and sports, will be created once Nigeria completes full digital broadcasting.

Said he: “With 24 million TV households in Nigeria requiring a set-top box or Smart TV, thousands of jobs will be created by the companies licensed to produce the boxes. Besides the licensed companies producing the set-top boxes, hundreds of thousands of jobs will also be created from television production. These will include the production of music and movies, with the active participation of Nollywood, which will move to push for subscription for video-on-demand on the STB and online. The TV industry is also expected to experience an increase in number of writers, lighting, sound, camera and editing professionals as well as actors, installers to supply the market with STBs, TV sets and dongles, increase in television and online advertising, as well as the need to create apps to offer goods and services and for interaction and entertainment at every level.”

Kawu further stated that the NBC was committed to the highest standards of broadcasting regulation in the country.

“We will do everything to assist the growth of our industry; we will continue to provide the ambience for the flowering of broadcasting in our country. But we would never tolerate a regime of impunity; refusal to obey the law or being cavalier with licensing issues, especially a prompt payment of license fees.

“The practice of going to the Aso Villa to seek black market endorsements for illegalities will not work in the current situation in Nigeria.

“President Muhammadu Buhari believes in processes and he would not help any licensee to flout the NBC Act. This is the reality of the new situation in our country,” he said.

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