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Mitigating consequence of missing digital transition deadline

By Kabir Alabi Garba
18 May 2015   |   4:33 am
IT is no longer news that Nigeria’s Digital Switch Over (DSO) will not happen again on June 17, 2015. But the concern of the handlers of the process now is to mitigate the grave consequence of the miss.

Director General of NBC, Emeka Nba,.

IT is no longer news that Nigeria’s Digital Switch Over (DSO) will not happen again on June 17, 2015.

But the concern of the handlers of the process now is to mitigate the grave consequence of the miss.

The Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr. Emeka Mba was unequivocal last Wednesday in Abuja saying, “analogue transmitters of any country that fails to transit, from that date, will no longer enjoy the protection of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).”

At the media briefing on Nigeria’s transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting, Mba who rued the country’s inability to meet the digital migration deadline disclosed further, “we are discussing with our neighbouring countries, especially at the ECOWAS level to ensure that no interference of signals from analogue transmitter is recorded against Nigeria.”

With the success level attained in the technical aspect of digitisation, Mba said a total of additional 18 months might be required to go fully digital.

He made reference to policy decisions taken by the Federal Government reflected in the White Paper issued on the recommendations by the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) that marshaled the roadmap for Nigeria’s Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting.

Chief among these policies is the separation of functions in the Broadcast Industry leading to the agreement that the broadcaster would be responsible for the content of the broadcast while signal distributor or carrier would be responsible for the transmission of the signals to the viewers at home.

Given effect to this policy, Mba, at the briefing, noted that “three signal distributors or carriers are to be licensed, one of which is to evolve from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), known as ITS. NBC already licensed second carrier, while the third Broadcast Signal Distributor (BSD) is under consideration.”

According to him, a consortium created by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), and Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) has been offered licence for Free-to-Air content brand aggregation.

While the Transmission Standard remains DVB-T2 Format with MPEG-4 AVC Compression Format, NBC head said the commission is consistent with the policy that mandated that Set Top Boxes (STBs) to enable existing analogue television receivers to continue receiving the digital signal after the switch-over date should be manufactured in Nigeria. “A total of 11 companies have been licensed to manufacture STBs,” Mba said.

As the driver of the transformation that digitization is expected to bring to bear on the TV industry especially, he pledged that the NBC would manage the DSO challenge effectively by ensuring that existing players are not unfairly treated; encourage necessary fresh investment into the broadcasting ecology; promote innovation; and limit the impact of the changes, as well as provide focused attention on the overall benefits of the digital switch over (DSO) to the broadcast industry, and the nation at large.

He identified what he termed “four key elements” for the transition to be successful. These are broad stakeholders’ involvement in terms of deep collaboration between and amongst all important key players, especially of existing analogue broadcasters, government and regulators as well as advertisers, content producers, etc; focus on the benefits of the new digital broadcasting ecosystem to each stakeholder group, and the general economy; availability of funding to drive process, and; effective focused leadership and change management by regulator/government.

Indeed, the digital transition campaign has been fully embraced by the stakeholders especially the broadcasters. This has culminated in organizing first International Summit on Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), an umbrella body of public and privately owned broadcast media outlets in the country.

With Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria: promoting our values, enriching our lives as theme, the two-day outing held in Abuja attracted quality discussion around digitization and quality personalities from Africa, Europe and America.

And with the revelation that since 2007 when Nigeria officially began the digitization campaign, there has been no budgetary allocation except that the regulatory agency has been parting away with its internally generated revenue to drive the process indicated focused leadership from the regulator.

Had been that high level commitment demonstrated by the broadcasters and regulator was backed up by adequate funding required by the campaign by the government, Nigeria would have achieved the DSO since June 17, 2012, three years ahead the deadline mandated by the ITU.

The Chairman of DigiTeam, Mr. Edward Idris Amana, a broadcast engineer captured, graphically, the frustration suffered by the campaign, which has now resulted in Nigeria missing the deadline. Speaking at the BON’s international summit held between May 6 and 7, 2015, Amana said, “After WRC-07, the Broadcast Regulator in Nigeria – National Broadcasting Commission – NBC initiated the setting up a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in Nigeria.

This committee submitted its report to the government in 2008 with a well-defined Road Map that would have seen Nigeria completing the Digital Switchover by June 17- 2012.

“Unfortunately, because of political problems, the government of Nigeria could not address the implementation of the recommendations of the PAC Report till 2012. DigiTeam Nigeria, the Implementation Committee for the Transition was finally inaugurated on 20th December 2012.”

Amana however expressed faith that the process would sail through soon provided the incoming government deploy required funding.

“We have come a long way in the transition process. The journey ahead is now much shorter than where we were coming from. We will get there.”

He explained further, “at the early planning stages of the Transition, focus was all about the Digital Dividend resulting from the transition. Dividend mainly from the point of view of the Frequency Bands left over which will be available for sale after the transition and of course the resulting increase in programming.