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NBC… Adopting piecemeal approach to digitisation


Modibbo Kawu

Inspite of the Federal Government’s approval of N10 billion for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project since September 2016, the process has remained very slow. Considering the promises made by government, it would have been expected that the project should have gone beyond its current state. Countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region are expected to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting in fulfillment of directive by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). However, Nigeria, like others, missed the deadline.

Nevertheless, Nigeria has planned a piecemeal, regional approach to the switchover after failing twice (2012 and 2015) to migrate nationally. It would be recalled that in June last year, National Broadcasting Commission’s Director General, Mr. Ishaq Kawu, had said NBC would cover 12 states in the process by December 2017, but the commission only managed to launch in Kwara and Kaduna States by December 2017, about five months after the proposed dates of launch in both states.

Kawu had stated, “We have proceeded with faith that the DSO is just too vital to our national progress and should not face any more delays. We are optimistic that by the end of the year, half of the country would have successfully switched over to digital television.”

He, however, noted that the June 17, 2017 deadline was just a ‘benchmark date’ for the process in the country, but said many had misconstrued the process, and assumed that on that date, almost like magic wand, Nigerians would wake up to find that the entire country had switched over to digital television.

Kawu had also expressed concern that one of the fears about delayed DSO transition was the problem of trans-border signal interference from analogue transmitters. According to him, Set-Top-Box (STB) manufacturers had committed resources to the importation of 850, 000 STBs from China, but because the EFCC had seized NBC’s funds, under the ancient regime at the commission, it could not meet the commitment, which totaled $26 million.

He revealed that in the midst of all these challenges, NBC was resolute in carrying out the DSO in Abuja, and also appointed The Outsource Company (TOC), as the call centre managers for the switchover, starting from Abuja.

Chief Engineer of Pinnacle Communications, the distribution company for the digital switch over, Charles Cooper, at the Kaduna launch said signals from 24 television stations would be received free of charge, and gave assurance that the equipment for the switch over were state-of-the-art technology and would likely phase-out the challenges of poor reception of television signals in the southern part of Kaduna State.

Pinnacle is the first licensed signal distribution in the country to commence digital transmission in line with the Federal Government’s directives.

Kawu also stated at the recent DSO Stakeholder Retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State that the Federal Government would in February roll out Digital Switch Over (DSO) in Enugu and Osogbo in Osun States as part of its efforts to transit broadcasting from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television nationwide. He noted that the process of installation of equipment for the roll out in Gombe and Delta States was near conclusion and the launch would hold before the end of the first quarter of the year.

He said the commission and other stakeholders had heightened discussions about completing the digital mapping of the country, adding that the process was vital for achieving the overall planning of the entire DSO mapping of Nigeria.

While speaking on the challenge of virtual coverage of the states and territory where the DSO had been launched, Kawu said that it was due to topography, adding, “Coverage is related to topography. Take an example of the FCT; it is a city of hills and undulating grounds. As I am talking to you, the signal distributor for Abuja has purchased feeder pillar transmitters, which will be installed for the entire Abuja and environs to be covered. The same thing applies in Plateau. The signal distributor has to put feeder pillar transmitters in places like Langtang for the entire state to be covered.”

He noted that the commission had also taken a decision that by the end of March, it would switch off analogue transmission in Abuja and Jos to compel television viewers to get Set-Top Box.

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