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Government tasked on technical, financial viability over DTT

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The digital switchover (DSO) process, which has still not been fully implemented a decade after it was announced, no doubt, is still a long way to go. The process has raised critical questions about Nigeria’s ability to switch from analogue to digital television.

Apart from obvious reason of lack of funds, there are underlying challenges the broadcasting business could face with the introduction of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), which aims to change the way signals are transmitted and how the viewing public receives and view them.

And to achieve success that will be beneficial to all parties, broadcasters have stressed the need for proper expert negotiation with regard to Service Level Agreements with transmission suppliers, coupled with assurances on the affordability and availability of set-top boxes, so that hard-pressed TV viewers across Nigeria do not lose out on the lifeline that is, free-to-air TV.

Last week, TVC Broadcasting Centre, Lagos hosted the TVC Communications 18th Annual General Meeting and 72nd General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).

At the event, the CEO of TVC Communications, Mr. Andrew Hanlon, spoke with The Guardian on the idea behind the conference and why it was necessary to discuss the plans of DTT. He said, “most Nigerians know nothing about this and most Nigerians love their television. You get free TV and you can watch several television channels but the way that you receive the signals is going to change, as the old aerial will no longer work.

“When the government switch off the analogue signals, they have to get a separate box to receive television channels as you do now. The question is: Who is going to pay for the box? How much will the box cost? Lagos State government may subsidise the cost of the box. The box could cost between 10 to 20 US dollars. That is a lot of money for people who don’t have it. All of a sudden the signals will go off and people will be thinking how to get their free TV channels back. So, this is what DTT is.”

Reacting to how the DSO has stalled and what the government could do to quicken the process, Hanlon said, “it is the government that is introducing this system, so, the Federal Government is rolling this through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). It is their project. We, as the broadcasters, have to shut down our transmitters on the day we are told to and hand our pictures over to the new signal transmitter, which is licenced by the Federal Government, so, as a broadcaster, we are very nervous about this. Here, we own our signal and we are in charge and we are on the transmitter. But the day is going to come, possibly, next year and the government says we must turn off our transmitters, give us your picture and we would put them through our new digital transmitter that will be received all over Nigeria.”

  
Hanlon, however, stated that the DTT would enhance picture quality and give more channels to the viewer. He said, “This is really good for TV viewers but there are still a lot of questions around how viewers are going to get pictures, who will buy the box? How much will the box cost? For every TV you have in your hands, you need a separate box. Each box could cost between 10 to 20 dollars. A lot of people cannot afford this.

“As a TV CEO, I’m worried that if people do not have the boxes, they cannot view us and I am going to lose. The advertisers are going to say to me that I have lost all my viewers. We as the broadcasters need to be sure that our signals are going to be put out there on the system and we need to know that the viewers all over the country will be able to receive the signal as well. So, the government needs to launch a huge educational campaign to educate viewers on what is going to happen. People in Nigeria do not know anything about this. What happens in other countries is that the government would launch a very big advertising campaign to help people understand the changes.”

He continued, “At TVC, we are proponents of high-quality broadcasting and journalism, of increased competition and greater choice for the viewing public. We want the sector to thrive and prosper, and we believe in DTT as a means of achieving those aims.
And we don’t just believe in saying these things – we have put our money where our mouth is.

“Over the past two years we have invested billions of naira in new digital equipment, studio upgrades, HD cameras and DSNG uplinks all over the federation to enable us to live up to our mantra of “First with breaking news”

“And we know that quality is not just about equipment and hardware, but its also about investing in our people – all 550 of our staff located all over Nigeria.

Hanlon further urged the NBC to ensure that DTT was fit-for-purpose, technically robust and financially viable. Adding, “We all want to DTT to work, and please be assured that TVC Communications will play its part in helping to achieve that success.


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