CEO of Balancing Act, Mr. Russell Southwood
By Emma Okonji
Stakeholders at a Digital Broadcast forum organised by Paradigm Initiative Nigeria in Lagos recentlymhave expressed their concerns over what they described as slow development in the nation's drive to switch from analogue to digital television streaming.
They expressed their worries that Nigeria may not be able to meet up with the targeted date of June 17, 2015, to switch all television channels from analogue to digital, owing to the weak state of preparation on the part of government.
An expert in digital media and CEO of Balancing Act, Mr. Russell Southwood, who presented a lead paper at the forum, identified some major challenges that could affect the proposed switchover date, as well as its advantages, should Nigeria meet up with the said date.
Southwood identified lack of adequate awareness campaign on the part of government to sensitise the people on the prospects and importance of the switchover, as well as dearth of infrastructure and inadequate local content development as major challenges that must be addressed if Nigeria must switchover by June 17, 2014.
He however listed some of the benefits of digital migration to include better and faster broadband coverage that will benefit citizens, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and government, as well as the possibility of consumers to have increased channels, greater content coverage, wider TV coverage, and expanded TV channels and local contents.
Expressing their worries over the slow pace of development in the entire process of digital migration, some stakeholders blamed government for lack of political will to release funds for the implementation of the white paper on digital migration.
They were worried that in less than 17 months to the June 17, 2015 switchover date, the country is yet to come up with a prototype Set-Top-Boxes that would convert digital signals to the standards that could be transmitted by analogue television.
To key into digital transmission, every household that still operates the analogue television, needs a Set-Top-Box for the conversion, otherwise no analogue television would be able to receive digital transmission by 2015, after the switchover.
Speaking on the importance of Set-Top-Boxes, stakeholders urged government to expedite action in commissioning a prototype Set-Top-Box with acceptable standard, that could be produced locally, to enable Nigerians afford them easily. They also called on government to consider subsidising the Set-Top-Boxes for availability and easy purchase.
Another issue raised was the monopoly of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as a single licensed carrier. They equally called on government to speed up the processes of licensing more carriers that could compete with NTA, in other to give Nigerians better service quality.
Stakeholders argued that the issue of infrastructure and other issues raised at the forum, must be addressed, if Nigerian must meet up with the planned switchover date of June 17, 2015.
Speaking on the implications of not meeting the targeted date, Southwood said by the time every other country has switched to digital and are transmitting digital signals, Nigerian consumers would be cut off from the rest of the world, as their analogue television would no longer be able to receive digital contents. He however said those in boarder towns that have Set-Top-Boxes may only receive digital signals from foreign neighboring countries, because of proximity.
Nigerian had signed an agreement document with the International Telecoms Union (ITU), the global industry regulator, to switchover from analogue to digital by 2015. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the government agency championing the course, had fixed January 2015, as a new date for switchover, ahead of the June 2015 date.
Director-General of NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba, had said the new date would ginger government and the committees involved to achieve switchover before the ITU June 2015 date. He said the committee was working hard to achieve the new date, but stakeholders at the Digital Broadcast forum said nothing was on ground to show that Nigeria would achieve the planned switchover date,