Match towards digital switchover gets presidential endorsement

MBA-NBCBEFORE now, industry pundits and stakeholders’ had felt that the drive for meeting the new June 2017 deadline for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) of analogue television to digital broadcasting has been only on the shoulders of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Nigeria had lost out from two previous deadlines including January and June 2015.
However, the recent position of the present administration as captured by the presidential address at the celebration of SilverBird Group’s 35th anniversary in Lagos recently has shown the support of the federal government in the ongoing DSO campaign by the NBC.
Clearly, the address by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the 35th anniversary of Silverbird Group said it all on the eagerness and support of the apex government to fund and midwife DSO.
The President ably represented at the occasion by the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made it clear that “on our part, we will provide the necessary environment to unleash the latent energy of the key Media and Entertainment Industry”.
President Buhari added: “As part of providing this requisite environment, this administration will ensure a strict adherence to the plan to reach 100 per cent digital TV penetration in Nigeria by 2016, up from 49 per cent at the end of 2013. In other words, we pledge our commitment to building a vibrant TV and Media economy for the benefit of all Nigerians”.
“Nigeria intends to use the DSO as an opportunity to diversify the provision of channels and content. Silverbird, with its rich history, will have to play a key role in this evolution of television and entertainment to boost production, local content, and employment of our ever increasing youth, contribute significantly to the nation’s GDP.”
Continuing, President Buhari rolled out statistics, which suggests “Sub-Saharan Africa will have 46.46 million primary Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) homes by 2020, that is 37.6 million Free To Air and 8.86 million pay TV, up from 9.27 million at the end of 2013 and 0.53 million at the end of 2010. Nigeria will be the largest DTT nation in Africa in 2020, both for Free To Air – that is 9.07 million – and for pay, that is 3.59 million”.
“The target markets for Free To Air are the 26-million-plus TV households, and the growth of DTT in Nigeria is accelerating much faster than the growth in the pay-TV market.
Categorically, the Federal Government made it clear that, “It shall, by using the DSO, replicate in Nigeria the globally successful Free to Air model, to open up the market to mass numbers of potential viewers”.
“Analogue TV content is relatively weak; and the pay DTT platforms offer a few new digital-only Nigerian channels, primarily in Entertainment. The Switch Over to Digital will drastically change the competitive landscape in the Media and Entertainment in Nigeria, so that traditional media companies are no longer just competing with each other, but also with companies like Google, Microsoft, Telef√≥nica and even Red Bull or Coca Cola,” President Buhari averred.
The journey so far by the federal agency on DSO has been heartwarming and commendable even before the recent presidential concern.
Only in September this year, the Director General of the NBC, Emeka Mba, said that the commission was working assiduously to meet the new DSO deadline.
In his presentation during the 6th edition of the yearly NigeriaCom, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) event organised by Informa Telecoms and Media in Lagos, he said that Nigeria and most of the African countries failed to meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) DSO deadline of June 17, but that the ECOWAS region had set a new date of June 20, 2017.
According to him, the ITU deadline was not met due to lack of fund and myriads of challenges before the commission. The challenges according to him are aggregate content development, distribution and production and availability of Set Top Boxes (STBs).
But hope of internally generated funding was restored as the commission recently licenced MTN Nigeria to operate on spectrum frequency in the 700MHz bands adding that it realised N34 billion from the sale.
Mba explained at the forum “We are working hard to meet this deadline. The licensing will afford Nigerians the best option for the provision of high quality converged broadcasting and telecommunications services,” stressing that “It will also enable the funding for a successful DSO, which would free up more spectrum for sale”.
He added that the commission had already licenced 13 companies that would manufacture the STBs locally.
The NBC boss said that switching over to digital was a win-win for the consumers, television industry and the government, noting that “We are creating a value chain and fundamentally, we believe that TV should be free even though Pay TV is important. We believe in Free-To-Air, so, we are trying to create an ecosystem that adds value to the consumer”.

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