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[August 27, 2014]
Mba Assures of June 2015 Switchover Deadline, Process to Gulp N60 Billion
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE estimated cost of digital switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting in Nigeria has been put at over N60 billion by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
This amount is an analysis of how much television stations and government will spend as well as how much will be spent on the procurement of SetUp boxes.
Meanwhile, the broadcasting industry would be vacating extremely valuable spectrum, which is the Digital Dividend Spectrum during the transition process. "If we don't vacate, Nigeria will lose potentially billions of Dollars that would have come from the auction of these frequencies, which would have been used for broadband. Nigeria will also have a setback because we will not achieve our broadband objectives. Beyond broadcasting, orderly digital switch-over, has larger economic and social benefits for the country", NBC stated.
Director General of NBC, Emeka Mba, who disclosed both in Lagos (at a Breakfast Session jointly organised by Advertisers' Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) and Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIRAN) and in Abuja, while briefing journalists on 22 years of existence of the commission in Abuja said the biggest chunk of the amount is for Set Up Box rebirth, stressing that NBC want to ensure that Nigerians who live below the poverty line continues to have access to digital television and that people do not confuse digital television to PayTV.
Mba said: "It is matter of National Strategic importance that people have access to formal means of broadcasting given the health and security challenges we face and in order for them not to rely on rumours they need access to formal information channels. We have done an aggregate budget based on not only what NBC will spend but what broadcasters will spend and how much it will cost the whole industry. NBC is a regulator and not an operator, but we have taken an analysis of how much television stations, government will spend and how much will be spent on Set Up Boxes and we are looking at something over N60 billion which will be the cost of digital switch over in Nigeria compared to what other countries spent. UK spent over £1billion, USA spend over $40 billion." The NBC boss explained that the funding options recommended by NBC for the digital switch over was based on statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Populations Commission, which suggest that the number of TV households is about 23 million.
According to him, the commission recommended 100 per cent subsidy for set up boxes for people living under the poverty line in the country, which is about 33 per cent of the nation's population. "We say, do we fully rebirth these people 100percent, 50 or 75 per cent rebirth? It now becomes option for government to consider based on the resources available to government." Mba, who described the digital transition as the most significant national public change project ever, noted that NBC has set January, 2015 as deadline for full digital switch-over across Nigeria but pointed out that the "January 2015 target is a very aggressive deadline but it is predicated on availability of resources for us to meet adding that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline is June 17, 2015. We have an objective to have at least 90 per cent digital coverage of the country by the deadline".
He recalled that the digital transition process started with a Pilot scheme launched in Jos Plateau state, revealing that about 90 per cent digital coverage has been achieved over the whole Plateau state, while NBC hopes to achieve 100 per cent digital coverage over the whole of Plateau state in the next few weeks and switch off all analogue television services in Plateau state in the next 30-60 days, given the availability of SetUp Boxes.
"This is important because these are some of the specifications you must reach before you switch off the analogue totally. We are hoping that in the next 30-60 days, given the availability of SetUp Boxes, we should be able to switch off all the analogue Television services in Plateau state and we are working very hard with all the various stakeholders and Government of Plateau state. All the broadcasters, the government, Silverbird, AIT and NTA are the stations operating who are operating in the analogue format in Plateau state. The NBC has agreed to give them the Digital Incentive Channels (free channels) with which they can launch digital services and we are working with the broadcasters to ensure they take advantage of this offer and produce fresh programming that are all digital which will help stimulate more audience", he added.
The DG disclosed that the country has about 316,000 TV households in Plateau state, and therefore needed about 500,000 set up boxes for the alone while about 40 million set up boxes would be required by the whole country.
Mba stressed that NBC is working to ensure indigenous manufacturing of set up boxes as the multiplier effect would trickle down to businesses and create employment.
He observed that the commission has issued a total of 334 licenses since inception out of which 109 was for television, 167 for radio, 36 for MMDs/ Pay TV and about 22 for campus radio adding that the number is expected to grow as we move into the digital environment.
"Everybody in Africa recognises that Nigeria has the most vibrant broadcasting industry. We may have our difficulties and challenges but when compared to other broadcasting industries in Africa, you will find out that Nigeria have a very vibrant industry. Many private individuals have sunk their hard earned money and reputation to broadcasting through many private radio and television station since after the deregulation of the sector in Nigeria", he stated.
Pointing out that broadcasting is a national asset and lead promoters must be Nigerians, Mbah stated that the company reserved by the White Paper as the First Broadcast Signal carrier is a company that would be exercised form the assets from NTA adding that the newly formed company is Integrated Television Services ltd (ITS) they are working to ensure they roll out aggressively across the country to meet the June 2015 deadline while Pinnacles Communications ltd won the bid for 2nd Broadcast Signal carrier.
Mba assured that NBC will continue to do all it's best to ensure that two critical challenges the country face, which is the orderly transition to digital broadcasting succeeds and that the role of the electronic media during this political season is done in the best professional manner.
Meanwhile in Lagos, Mba said "We knew it was doable when we set the migration deadline in 2005. The benefits of the migration exercise to both consumers as well as broadcasters are also enormous," stressing that the migration exercise will lead to freeing up of about one-third of frequencies, which can then be used for the provision of other services.
On the steps taken by the Federal Government so far to actualise the ITU vision, Mba disclosed that the government had finalised and harmonised discussions over the transmission network parameters with all Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states.
Copyright The Guardian. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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