TRANSITION FROM ANALOGUE TO DIGITAL BROADCASTING IN NIGERIA
The National Broadcasting Commission recognises, Digitisation, the conversion of the broadcast and communication systems from analogue to digital, as an important global movement driven by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU that will revolutionise broadcasting, as we know it. Digitisationboth improves the quality of reception and ensures a more efficient use of the spectrum, which is a scarce and finite natural resource belonging to all Nigerians, and held in trust by licensees.
The transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting will affect all segments in the broadcasting value chain, namely: content production, transmission and reception as all will require technical upgrading to support digital broadcasts.
In November 2007, the National Broadcasting Commission briefed the 38th National Council on Information and Communications in Jos on the imperatives of Digitisation and urgent need for the nation to take advantage of this inevitable global phenomenon.
In December 2007, His Excellency President Umaru Musa ‘Yar-adua graciously approved that the Commission should set in motion and pilot, Nigeria’sdigitisation programme towards the target date of June 17, 2012;
Meanwhile, the Commission, in a forward looking manner, has encouraged cable (MMDS) and DTH operators to digitise their operations. All those operating in Nigeria are now transmitting digital signals.
On June 3rd 2008 the Commission hosted a Stakeholders’ meeting, chaired by the Hon. Minister of Information and Communications. It was attended by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, the Chairman, House Committee on Information and more than four hundred participants, including chief executives of federal and state government-owned, as well as private, broadcasting stations, policy makers, law makers, non-governmental organisations and the General Public from across the nation.
In addition to endorsing the necessity for Nigeria to take advantage of the global Digitisation movement, the stakeholders urged government to drive the process through policy by providing the necessary and enabling infrastructure, as well as set up a digitisation implementation task force and provide it with adequate funds to midwife the transition
The Stakeholders’ Conference also advised that for a successful migration, broadcasters will need to overcome the challenges of digital compliant studio equipment, content provision, new coverage planning, training for its personnel and public awareness;
Furthermore, Government has the greatest role to play in actualising the migration. It is the role of government to lead the movement by fashioning out appropriate policy on methodology and pace of migration, acquisition of set-top boxes for existing receivers already in the country and generally giving direction to the industry in the interest of the nation.
The regulator concluded the conference, has the task of educating the operators and the public on the implications of the switchover including the social benefits and the timetable.
The regulator is also expected to execute a planned migration strategy, and midwife it up to the switch off of the analogue systems. This will include selecting the best standards that will give the most benefit to consumers, setting specifications for receivers to be acquired henceforth, the enforcement of the adequately publicised and properly phased roll out dates, ensuring the availability of required equipment, insisting on systems synergy to permit consumer mobility between providers, etc.
Soon after the stakeholders’ meeting the Commission launched a sustained publicity in the press, radio and television to sensitise the public on the implications of Digitisation and what is expected of the various sectors.
To further set measures in motion for the realization of the project, the Federal Government set up a Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria. (PAC), which was inaugurated on 13th October, 2008 by the then Hon Minister of Information and Communications, Mr John Ogar Odey, with the following Terms of Reference:
· Recommend a policy on digital terrestrial broadcast transition using global best practices.
· Recommend appropriate regulatory framework.
· Recommend a National Broadcasting Model.
· Assess impact of digitization on the consumers and recommend possible government intervention.
· Determine the quantum of expected digital dividend.
· Assess environmental impact of digitization, if any, and recommend steps to be taken.
· Advice government on any action relevant to smooth transition in Nigeria.
Members of the Committee chaired by Engr Isaac Wakombo, a former Director of engineering of the Nigerian Television Authority, include among them veterans and serving broadcast engineers, professionals in broadcasting, telecommunication and allied fields. The multi-sectoral nature of the Committee could be seen from the sectors represented, which included:
1. Ministry of Information & Communications
2. National Broadcasting Commission (broadcasting regulator)
3. Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) - Government owned National TV Broadcaster
4. Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) - Government owned National Radio Broadcaster
5. National Film & Video Census Board (NFVCB)
6. Ministry of Science & Technology
7. Ministry of Environment
8. Consumer Protection Council (CPC)
9. NewAge Network Kaduna
11. Nigerian Customs Service
12. SPEX. Nig. LTD
13. Delta Cables (ACON)
15. DAAR Communication PLC – private radio and TV broadcaster
16. Nigerian Film Corporation
17. Nigerian Communications Commission
18. Nigerian Copyright Commission
19. The Guardian (print media)
20. Kemilinks International – the consultant
21. Members of the public
The PAC has since held two retreats, during which every aspect of the digitisation process and its implications were critically examined. A comprehensive report has been prepared and is ready for submission to Government to move to the next stage of the process, which will include Government consideration and acceptance of the report, the production of a White Paper, and the proposal of the appropriate bills to the National Assembly.