By Emma Okonji
As the June 20, 2017 deadline for the digital switch over (DSO) from analogue to digital broadcasting draws nearer, information and communications technology (ICT) stakeholders have raised fresh concerns that could derail the process again, if adequate measures are not put in place.
Some of the stakeholders, who spoke in anonymity, are accusing the federal government of giving priority attention to a particular signal distributor, at the detriment of others, a situation, they said, could slow the pace of development, especially now that Nigeria is getting close to the June 2017 deadline for the digital switchover.
According to them, government had licensed two key national signal distributors, ITS and Pinnacle, to drive digital signal distribution process across the country and to provide easy access of the digital signals to Nigerians. While ITS is government created through NTA, and operates as an arm of NTA, Pinnacle is a private business. But the stakeholders are worried that some unseen but powerful hands in government are trying to favour Pinnacle more than ITS, for personal reasons.
The stakeholders are worried about the recent development, where ITS is denied the right to roll out digital signals in Abuja, after it has successfully launched in Jos, Plateau State, where the pilot scheme for the rollout of DSO was carried out.
They were of the view that both ITS and Pinnacle could have been given equal opportunity to roll out in Abuja together, just like GOtv and StarTimes are currently doing with DSO rollout, in order to allow broadcasters and the marketers to decide which of the signal distributors to pitch tent with.
“Should both have been allowed to run simultaneously, most broadcasters would have gone out for ITS over Pinnacle because of the strength of ITS through its presence in about 80 key cities,” the stakeholders said.
They also alleged some discrepancies in the signal licensing on the part of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
“While some operators are given lower frequencies with capacity to penetrate more and translate to better digital TV quality, others are given upper frequency with low penetration capacity which translates to poorer TV signal and viewing on its platform,” the stakeholders alleged.
The stakeholders want equity allocation of broadcast licensing and called on government to allow market forces to determine the successful migration from analogue to digital migration.
They explained that several organisations have invested so much in ITS, and that it would be a wrong business sense for some people in government to limit ITS’ digital signal rollout in an attempt to favour Pinnacle.
This, they said amounts to policy somersault and could largely erode investors’ confidence.
The federal government had successfully launched the pilot scheme of the DSO rollout in Jos, Plateau state, to be followed by other cites in preparation for the migration from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 2017.
The journey towards the digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting, actually started in Nigeria in June 17, 2006, after Nigeria had signed international and regional agreements to conclude digital migration by June 17, 2012.
In a bid to achieve the 2012 migration date, the federal government in 2007, approved the process of migration. And in 2008, it inaugurated a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Nigeria, however, missed out on the June 17, 2012 initial date for migration, for lack of adequate preparation.
Having missed the initial date in 2012, government was forced to shift migration date to June 17, 2015, but also could not achieve it for lack of funds.
Based on the inability of government to release funds for the DSO rollout in 2015, Nigeria, for the second time, missed out on digital switchover.
The new date of June 20, 2017, would be the third time Nigeria is struggling to achieve the digital migration process.