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Funding, political considerations, others threaten digital switch over projects

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Inadequate funding, set-top boxes, political and economic considerations have been identified as some of the threats to speedy roll out of Digital Switch Over (DSO) projects across the country.

Two years after digital switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting was launched in Jos, Plateau State at its pilot phase, National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC) roll out is moving at a snail speed with only six states covered so far.

While about 32 million set-top boxes are needed to cover the entire country, only a little over one million set-top boxes are ready.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the price of set-top boxes, officially pegged at N1, 500 currently, may be upwardly reviewed as distributors are mounting pressure on the commission to leave the price to market forces.

Chairman of the Set Top Box Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (STBMAN), Godfrey Ohuabunwa, stated in an interview that government could make between N50 billion and N300 billion from TV licenses in Nigeria even if 30-35 million people log on to it.

Ohuabunwa, who is also the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Gospell Digital Technology, said: “As such the benefits are huge. The process is slow but since government has assured of its commitment in moving to at least six states by the end of this year, it should be switching over.

“So, we are selling and manufacturing to the open market and we encourage government to make effort to subsidise.”

Kaduna State was the fourth to launch in December last year. This came almost two years after the pilot in Jos and one year after the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

The project, which appears to be in line with government’s effort to meet the 100 per cent target of moving the country from analogue to digital broadcast, has seen Nigeria miss several switch over deadlines before now.

The Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, had last week, met with STBMAN to x-ray their achievements, challenges and propose a way forward in the manufacturing and supplies of STBs in Abuja.

He noted that some of NBC’s challenges were getting the STDs factories functional to meet the production requirements of over 22 million TV homes; how to make the boxes affordable without compromising quality and ensuring that the operations are reasonably profitable and sustainable in the long-term.

There are also challenges of how to maximise the business opportunities for members of STD association, and in the interest of majority of Nigerians and how to deploy in good time to enable analogue switch off, without which the entire eco-system would remain unviable.

He lamented the unethical practice of STBms who refuse to supply the boxes that NBC had paid for, but bring them to launch locations and sell in a most unethical manner.

NBC’s Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Dr. Armstrong Idachaba, told The Guardian that digital switch over was a delicate process, adding that there were political, sociological and economic considerations to be managed.


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