Endless Journey towards Digital Migration | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Brands & Marketing, Business

Endless Journey towards Digital Migration

Posted: May 18, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

As the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), announces a fresh 18-month deadline for transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, stakeholders believe it is another opportunity for the Federal Government to step up efforts aimed at meeting the target, provided all the militating challenges are addressed. Reports Olamide Bakare

When the stakeholders in the broadcasting industry mooted the idea of switching over from analogue to digital in order to keep tab with the rest of the world, not many Nigerians thought the idea would be a welcome development considering the huge cost involved. But not too long after the idea was suggested, the Federal government took up the gauntlet by announcing in 2007 that the country would migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting come 2012.

Despite repeated assurances at different fora that it was ready to meet the deadline, communication and technology experts who were quite aware of the enormous challenges and tasks involved expressed reservations on reality of meeting the proposed deadline. The date and deadline soon came and it was as if achieving the dream was a tall order. Till date, nothing has changed as the industry still continues in its analogue system.

As at the time when the deadline set was about approaching, The Federal government in its diplomatic wisdom took a u-turn by announcing yet another deadline, January 1 2015.

Announcing the new date, the then Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said the decision  to extend the date was reached at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting where the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Broadcast Digitisation to ensure smooth transition to digital broadcasting was approved.

However, few years ago at a Digital Dialogue conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, it was reported that going by what was on ground; the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in Africa may remain a tall dream. According to the report, Africa was still being confronted with issues such as poor road infrastructure and power supply which are likely to impede the smooth transition.

Like Nigeria, most African nations have approved a continental digital television switch-over that was expected to be completed by 2015 and therefore part of the revolution that is set to bring with it more choice and more value to television viewers. The experts, who observed that there hadn’t been proper planning, urged government and operators to close ranks and think of the way forward.  Among other things, some of them predicted that failure to meet the deadline may lead to TV blackout as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had set a global deadline of 2015 for the transfer of TV programming from the current analogue to digital platforms.


As it is at the moment… 

With the look of things and the possibility of the switching over likely to hit a brick wall, It appears the country may have failed the second time to meet the June 17, 2015 deadline already set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for broadcast signals to move from analogue to digital.

Even though, no information as to the stage reached in accomplishing the target is available, some stakeholders are of the opinion that the likely failure to meet up with the deadline must have been informed by federal government refusal to release the sum of N60 billion that has been earmarked for the cutover since the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Till date, no government official or agency has given any reason why successive governments have been unable to provide this fund to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in order to facilitate the switchover. However, what every industry watcher is looking at is the adverse impact the delay in switching over will have on the Nigerian broadcast industry.

With a new government to be sworn-in in days to come, stakeholders are of the belief that facilitating Nigeria’s digital switchover might be a quick win for the administration particularly at a time when expectations are high. To them, taking such decision may signpost Buhari’s government as one with vision and determination to reposition Nigeria.

According to a digital programmer and software consultant, Chris Adichie, digital signals carry much more data than analogue signals. Therefore, more than one channel of television programmes can be broadcast at the same time. This is known as multi-channelling. This efficient utilisation of channels reduces the number of frequencies required for the broadcasting sector. This will enable the government to deploy the unused frequencies for use in other services.

Chris noted that as government sustains its drive for deeper broadband development and internet penetration, such free signals will come in handy to ensure a further development of the country’s IT base.


Good Governance on the Rescue

If improving the quality of life is an indication of a good government, the incoming government has a big responsibility in enhancing the lives of Nigerians by ensuring that Nigeria gets on the digital broadcasting plane.

This is because with analogue you are only able to have standard definition television. But with digital broadcasting, high definition [HD] television is possible. HD TV is the premium version of digital television, offering picture and sound quality which is much better than today’s analogue television. The reason is that it offers twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of a traditional analogue signal.

Due to better compression, the digital platform offers, broadcasters will be able to carry several channels of programming in spectrum that previously was only able to transmit a single analogue channel. Therefore viewers are likely to be offered a wider range of channels subject only to the broadcasters finding a business model to make the channels financially viable. Digital broadcasting offers the possibility of more channels which can include those in vernacular language.

These channels will, in the long term, give rise to people venturing into specialised areas of broadcasting, thereby addressing areas that were hitherto neglected by commercial broadcasters. The digital transition provides the opportunity to extend the signal coverage area within a country so that more people can share the same television programmes.

Speaking with our correspondent on the far reaching benefit of digital migration to the economy, a communication expert, Mr. Jide Johnson said digital migration remains a viable means of generating the needed employment for the youth.

He said: “The greatest challenge the Buhari’s administration will face from May 29, 2015 is grappling with the debilitating unemployment situation in the country. According to statistics, over 40 million Nigerians are unemployed. But digital broadcasting offers a great opportunity to cut this number. First, the digital transition offers an opportunity to review the effectiveness of local production quotas and of government schemes that support local production.

He continued: “With more Nigerians involved in profitably producing television and radio content, more people will be taken off the streets. Broadcasting is critical to national development and any government interested in deepening its market and enabling the people to have access to unhindered conversations must take critical look at everything that would make the industry work. The failure of previous regimes to facilitate Nigeria’s digital migration therefore presents an opportunity for Buhari and his team to etch their names in gold should they give a firm commitment to fast-track Nigeria’s migration, now that it looks very likely that ITU will extend the deadline”.

Furthermore, he noted that: “For a government that is likely to inherit an economy that is rapidly expanding across all frontiers, digital broadcasting provides an opportunity for the government to earn more revenue while at the same time delighting the populace. This is because digital signals are clearer and cheaper to generate and distribute”.

Similarly, another IT expert who spoke on telephone with our correspondent, Mr Abayomi Emmanuel explained that digital migration remains a good option considering the broad spectrum of beneficiaries that including local investors who may be interested in securing broadcast licence. He said: “In the same vein, migrating to digital broadcasting would make it possible for some local investors who have the required expertise, but have been denied the opportunity to obtain broadcast license because there is no ‘space’ in the analogue platform.  Once the country migrates to digital broadcasting, these investors would have the privilege to utilise their experience, employ more suitably qualified Nigerians. This is another major reason Buhari’s administration should take personal interest in the digital broadcast migration in Nigeria”.

He adds: “Nollywood provides a good case study of what can be benefitted from digital migration. The Nigerian movie industry directly and indirectly employs hundreds of thousands of people from script writers to video editors, from directors to actors and actresses and other people in the distribution and sales value chain.

Many have argued that digital migration has potential to replicate this and put more Nigerians in gainful employment because there are people that will be involved in the whole value chain propositions”.

Also speaking, a Chief Executive Officer of a Public relation firm, based in Lagos, Mr. Adeola Adejokun said reality of government achieving the digital switchover may not come at the earliest time particularly in the face of challenges impeding such realisation

However, with the recent announcement made by the Director General of the commission, Emeke Mba, stating that the deadline has been shifted till December 2016, it is hoped that NBC would act on its word by ensuring that that Nigeria digital migration becomes a reality.