Nigeria appears to be warming up for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting by June 17, 2015, even though government is yet to release the white paper for the transition process. Emma Okonji writes on the implications of the delay in the release of the white paper, vis-a-vis stakeholders' fears
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 its implementation process.
With barely two years to the proposed switch-on date for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, stakeholders are worried that Nigeria may be left out in the world of digital broadcast revolution, following perceived weak preparations on the part of government, but to the contrary, government is optimistic that Nigeria would meet up with the planned June 17, 2015 date.
Stakeholders, at a forum organised by Digital Dialogue Nigeria (DDN) in Lagos recently, expressed fear that the Nigerian government was becoming too slow in the implementation process. According to them, if the committee that is supposed to drive the implementation is yet to be set up by government, coupled with the non-release of the policy document for the implementation process, then Nigeria may fail to join other countries in digital broadcasting.
Their fear is that the world is switching to digital television streaming by 2015, and Nigeria wants to be part of the process without adequate preparations.
They argued that Nigeria still transmits analogue contents through television channels and that for it to be part of the planned transition from analogue to digital, there should be concerted efforts put in place for a gradual change from analogue television to digital, to make them compatible early enough to receive digital contents, by the time the transition is concluded.
Stakeholders also suggested the need for government to set up manufacturing plants in the country that would produce set-up boxes that would boost the transition process. They equally want government to set up a committee that will drive the transition process, insisting that the earlier the committee is set up, the easier it will become for Nigeria to transit.
Executive Director, Engineering, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who doubles as a consultant on Broadcasting and Communications Engineering, Mr. Edward Amana, told THISDAY that although late release of the document on the guidelines for the implementation may adversely affect the transition process, he, however, insisted that delay in funding, remained the biggest challenge to the planned transition process.
According to him, "If government decided to release the documents and set up a committee without releasing the required funds to drive the process, then it would amount to economic waste because nothing works without funding.
"The issue of funding is a major factor that may likely hinder the switch-on to digital broadcasting. If government releases funds after setting up and inaugurating the implementation committee for the transition process, and the committee begins work by early February this year, then the committee could conveniently achieve a major landmark in the transition process before the June 17, 2015 date," Amana said.
He suggested local production of the set-up boxes in Nigeria, to enable affordability and availability across the country.
Stakeholders challenged government to begin that installation of the latest technology in the broadcasting sector, 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 transmission process.
Insufficient Digital Contents
Some Nigerians who spoke with THISDAY also raised fear of insufficient digital contents that will drive digital transmission, by the time Nigeria goes digital.
Mr. Segun Adisa, a subscriber to one of the licensed Pay TV operators in Nigeria, raised the issue of insufficient contents that will support digital transmission. According to him, the technology behind digital broadcasting, allows for multiple channels and contents, but insisted that Nigeria is yet to develop its own contents that will fit into digital transmission. He called on content developers to begin to develop contents that will fully support digital transmission in Nigeria, so that viewers will depend less on foreign contents that do not showcase the Nigerian culture.
Contending with eWaste
Fielding questions from THISDAY on the implications of e-waste (electronic waste) after the transition process, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, assured Nigerians that the volume e-waste that would be generated after the migration from analogue to digital, would not affect digital transmission afterwards.
The minister said there were several ways to manage e-waste, should such issue surface during the migration process, and that the Ministry of Communications Technology was already working with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is the telecoms industry regulator in Nigeria, to address the issue.
Some industry stakeholders have raised fears that the volume of e-waste from analogue television and other electronic devices may hamper a smooth migration process, since Nigeria does not have recycling plant that could process and covert analogue electronic gadgets into digital devices.
According to Amana, should Nigeria misses out in digital broadcasting, it would automatically remain an island to other nations of the world, since the analogue television boxes, which are currently in use in Nigeria, would not be compatible with digital broadcasting contents, and would not be able to receive digital signals, that are gradually taking over the globe. He also said Nigeria's analogue signals may be conflicting with digital signals of neighbouring countries, which may attract sanction to Nigeria, if the matter is reported to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the world telecoms regulatory body.
Raising the hopes of Nigerians over the planned transition, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa, who admitted that delay in the preparations was beginning to set in, told THISDAY that although there was delay 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.
"What government is doing to select the committee and give it the guidelines to work with, and once they are inaugurated, they can meet up with the transition process before June 2015 date," Bolarinwa said
He added that "2015 is just by corner but the planned committee is not coming late because everything they needed to do is in the document that has been adopted by the government.
I am convinced that Nigeria can transit into digital broadcasting by 2015, given what is already on ground. Today in Lagos, there is digital broadcasting going on, which started since two years ago with NTA Startimes and GoTV. What matters is to know the number of transmitters in different locations and we are good to transit."
According to him, Nigeria currently has over 44 million viewing homes in readiness of the transition.
Bolarinwa who was optimistic that Nigeria would not miss the June 2015 target date, explained that everywhere in the world, digital transition remained policy driven, and that Nigeria would continue to support it. "It is better we get it right from the onset, even with the perceived delay, which is already raising fears in some quarters. The policy is on the way and government needs to take conscious step in the transition process, and that is exactly what government is doing," Bolarinwa insisted.
StarTimes's Assurance on Migration
Raising fresh hopes on the possibility of transiting from analogue to digital, Marketing Director, NTA Star TV Network, Mr, Eric Liu, told
THISDAY that apart from government efforts, the NTA StarTimes had gone ahead in its preparation for full digital migration. According to him, "StarTimes is set for digital migration, with the new launch of its DVB-T2 Technology in Nigeria and most African countries," which, he said, remained the latest and best technology for digital transmission.
StarTimes, he said, commenced streaming of digital contents with the Nigerian Television Network (NTA) with the DVB-T technology, in 2010, but decided to upgrade to DVB-T2 technology, which provides wider
range of channels, and sharper image with high resolution, for better customer experience, in the planned digital migration.
"StarTimes mission of ensuring every home in Nigeria enjoys affordable digital entertainment is backed by its collaboration with NTA, a strategic partnership that will help Nigeria in actualising its 2015 digital transition deadline," Liu said.
Senior Adviser to NTA Star TV Network, Mr. Bayo Adebiyi, who also spoke with THISDAY, said he was optimistic that Nigeria could transit from analogue to digital, going by what StarTimes and other terrestrial television networks are doing for Nigeria. He, however, advised government to play its part efficiently, to enable Nigeria join other countries in digital transmission.
According to him, US had its digital switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2009, and since then other countries have followed. He was optimistic that Nigeria would be able to also join the world in digital broadcasting by June 2015.