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‘Nigeria is sluggish on digital migration processes’


Is’haq Modibo Kawu, director general, National Broadcasting Commission/Twitter/ modibbo_kawu

• Experts task FG on local content devt, infrastructure upgrades

Experts, majorly, those in the technology space, have picked holes in the current Federal Government’s strategy to drive digital migration, describing the process so far as ‘sluggish’.
In their views, to achieve a hitch-free analogue to digital migration, Nigeria must begin to develop local contents, legislation and policies that are favourable to this purpose, adequate funding must also be guaranteed. ‘But all these major drivers are seriously missing. The process is stagnant here. The political will, which is an essential element of the process, is still missing.’’
Besides, they stressed that the country is yet to upgrade its infrastructure, including broadband, power, among others, which are also critical to the migration.Although the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, had assured Nigerians of a successful switchover, the experts noted that Nigeria must consider the adoption of a unified technology to accelerate the migration process. According to the Federal Government in 2016, migration will be phases.

Gathered at the 10th edition of the yearly NigeriaCom conference in Lagos, the experts submitted that government remains the most important stakeholder in digital migration through fiscal regulations, private sector partnerships, affordable broadband services and improved infrastructures.    
Noting that the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration can only be achieved when signal covers 95 per cent of the nation, they advised government to use available network and subsidise Set Top boxes for its citizens instead of licensing two companies to provide free TV.
DTT is a technology for broadcast television in which terrestrial television stations broadcast content by radio waves to televisions in consumers’ residences in a digital format. As an implementation of digital technology, it provides more channels and better quality of picture and sound, using aerial broadcasts to a conventional antenna instead of a satellite dish or cable connection.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pipul TV, Benjamin Okoroafor, said making the DTT work is by producing local video content, which as at now is not sufficient to meet the evolution despite the increasing technology for content production.
“Digital broadcasting boils down to content, market, and quality of service by telcos providers. Local content as at now is still not sufficient for the digital broadcasting. There are no local cartoons for children in Nigeria TV and this is a big vacuum already. Children are then coerced to watch western cartoon and indirectly imbibe their culture and behaviour. All the cartoons on the PayTV are foreign and had no link to Africa in anyway,” he said.
Okoroafor identified that children’s media as one of the most powerful when it comes to shaping the mind and “the fact that children in Nigeria and across the world have no cartoon they could watch that represents the continent in a positive way is worrying.”He noted that content audience measurement research, have shown that women and children use the PayTV more, while men are used to the sport TV, and encouraged cartoonists to produce quality content that can compete with the likes of Nickelodeon and others.
“If we cannot have a local equivalent quality teen or children channel, then there is a big challenge. Content has to go more local. We need to improve quality to attract people,” he added.Chief Operating Officer, StarTimes Nigeria, Tunde Aina, said DTT services in the country has not been satisfactory due to poor infrastructure and poor telcos services, which make digital migration possible, government has to provide the necessary infrastructure.
Aina noted that many Pay TV operators are running at a loss because of the high cost of doing business, Right of Way (RoW), and other major government policies that affects them. “It is imperative to increase the deployment and use of the broadband networks which are critical to delivering key services to drive digital migration,” he added. On the move to digital migration, he said “we recognise the challenges and believes that in the future we can have DTT. We need not wait for a perfect world. We can come up with consumer level solutions that allow people decide what content they want”.

He added that government decision to give free Set Top boxes to its citizens was not possible considering the cost that ranges between N5,000 or N8,000, but advised that other available options like infrastructure sharing and subsidizing Set Top boxes can be adopted.

Regional Director, West Africa, Boomplay Music, Oye Akideinde, said the over-the-top (OTT) service is not palatable for Pay TV due to insufficient government policy support, poor investment environment as it is capital intensive to set up.
“Connectivity is still poor and expensive and we are trying to enforce people to go digital. Why is service still poor? It is simply government regulation. Despite the growth rate, Nigeria is slow at picking things up. It is not a crime to have a better technology system in this country. It is about investment but many businesses believe if they invest more they won’t get the estimated profit because of the unstable economic system,” he added. 
Akindeinde said: “Everyone needs to up their game and sensitise the public more on the benefit of digital migration. Who then is driving the change? Consumers are more important so the need to provide content they need. We hope that there will be more government incentives to hasten our national building process. There is also need to improve and train people on more skill set because the emerging technologies are evolving faster than we think.”

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