6 December 2012

Nigeria: Forum Raises Fear Over Delay in Digital Broadcasting

With barely two years and few weeks to the proposed switch-on date for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, stakeholders are of the belief that Nigeria may be left out in the world of digital broadcast revolution, following perceived weak preparations.

Nigeria, represented by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), had earlier signed an agreement with other nations, to transit from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 17, 2015, but while other nations are busy making preparations for a smooth transition, the Nigerian government is yet to release the white paper on policies that will drive the implementation.

Stakeholders, at a forum organised by Digital Dialogue Nigeria (DDN) in Lagos yesterday, expressed fear that the Federal Government was slow to the implementation process, if the committee that was supposed to drive the implementation was yet to be set up by government, coupled with the non-release of the policy document for the implementation process.

The world is switching to digital television by 2015, and Nigeria aims to jump ahead by installing the latest technology in the broadcasting sector, because of its many advantages, which include the provision of more television channels, with sharper pictures and clearer sound production.

In technical parlance, digital television is a new and more efficient ways of receiving television signals. The signals are broadcast using radio waves, which are picked up by an aerial and sent down to a connected wire to television sets. With digital terrestrial television, the same transmitter will send the signal to the same aerial, but in a digital format, and mobile phones, video games and computers, use the digital format.

Should Nigeria miss out in digital broadcasting, it would automatically remain an island to other nations of the world, since the analogue television, which is currently operational in Nigeria, will not be compatible with digital broadcasting contents, and will not be able to receive digital signals, that is gradually going round the globe.

Raising the hopes of Nigerians, Director General of the NBC, Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa, said although there were delays in the release of the White Paper on digital broadcasting, government had already adopted the proposed document on digital broadcasting, with interest to begin with multiple channels, as against the single channel broadcasting, as earlier suggested.

According to him, "Government has to unfold the implementation programme through a committee that will drive it. Nigerians, including the media, have responsibility to enlighten the masses on digital transition. What government and the regulator need do is to make the set-up boxes for the connection from analogue to digital broadcasting, affordable and available for the masses."

The planned committee, he said, must be all encompassing to include the Police, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Broadcasters and other stakeholders.

Delivering a paper on the "Technical Imperatives of Digital Transition in Nigeria," former Executive Director of Engineering, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), and a current consultant on Broadcasting and Communications Engineering, Mr. Edward Amana, raised the issue of funding as a major factor that may likely hinder the switch-on to digital broadcasting.

According to him, if government releases funds, after setting up and inaugurating the implementation committee for the transition process, by early February next year, the committee could conveniently achieve the transition by June 2015.

He suggested local production of the set-up boxes in Nigeria, to enable affordability and availability.

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