Stakeholders condemn unfair competition in digital switchover
Want market forces to determine migration operations
WIith about 162 days to the Digital Switch Over (DSO) deadline, which will see Nigeria transit from analogue to digital broadcasting, stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector have called for a transparent process that will make the June 17 deadline a reality.
While they commended the renewed vigour of the Federal Government, which is being championed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the stakeholders, who spoke anonymously, however, picked holes in some steps already taken by the government.
According to them, the Federal Government may have taken a wrong step in some areas, especially in terms signal distribution.
They complained that government seems to be favouring a particular signal distributor, at the detriment of others, a situation, they said, could slow the pace of development, especially now that Nigeria appeared to be serious about the DSO.
According to them, government had licensed two key national signal distributors – Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), an ICT based solutions company, and Pinnacle Communications Limited, a major signal distributor, to drive digital signal distribution process across Nigeria, and to provide easy access to digital signals for Nigerians.
While ITS is a government creation through the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and operates as an arm of the television station, Pinnacle is a private business. But the stakeholders are worried that some unseen but powerful hands in government are trying to favour Pinnacle more than ITS for personal reasons.
The stakeholders are worried of the recent development, where ITS is denied the right to roll out digital signals in Abuja, after it has successfully launched in Jos, Plateau State, where the pilot scheme for the roll-out of DSO was carried out.
They queried why both ITS and Pinnacle could not have been given equal opportunity to roll out together in Abuja, like GOtv and StarTimes are currently doing, in order to allow broadcasters and marketers decide which of the signal distributors to pitch tent with.
“Should both have been allowed to run simultaneously, most broadcasters would have gone out for ITS over Pinnacle because of the strength of ITS through its partner’s presence in about 80 key cities,” they stated.
The stakeholders also called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to avoid some discrepancies in signal licensing.
“While some operators are given lower frequencies with capacity to penetrate more and translate to better digital TV quality, others are given upper frequencies with low penetration capacities which translate to poorer TV signal and viewing on the platforms,” the stakeholders alleged.
According to them, it would have been better if market forces are allowed to determine the successful migration from analogue to digital migration.
They explained that several organisations have invested so much in ITS, and that it would be a wrong business sense for some people in government to limit ITS’ digital signal rollout, in an attempt to favour Pinnacle. This, they said amounts to policy somersault and could largely erode investors’ confidence.
Already, the Federal Government had successfully launched the pilot scheme of the DSO roll-out in Jos, Plateau State, from where government plans to roll-out in other cities in preparation for the migration from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 2017.
The journey towards the digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting actually started in Nigeria, on June 17, 2006, after the country signed international and regional agreements to conclude digital migration by June 17, 2012.
In a bid to achieve the 2012 migration date, the Federal Government in 2007, approved the process of migration, and in 2008, it inaugurated a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Nigeria however, missed out on the June 17, 2012 initial migration date, due to lack of adequate preparation, and government was forced to shift migration date to June 17, 2015, but again could not achieve it for lack of funds.
Meanwhile, with the pilot processes already on ground, the Abuja switch on is expected to transmit 30 TV channels, offering fares in news, entertainment, sports and business.
The bouquet of programmes would offer local, regional and national television channels, while the Set Top Boxes will also be interactive, offering the unique opportunity for government to communicate directly with the Nigerian people.