As the Federal Government unveils a group of experts to drive the process of transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television transmission in Nigeria, Raheem Akingbolu writes on the enormous challenges before the committee, and the need for speedy action.
Barely a month after a dialogue among stakeholders in the broadcasting and entertainment industry took place in Lagos to review the process of migrating from analogue to digital, the Federal Government on December 20 took a bold step by inaugurating some professionals, hitherto referred to as 'Digiteam' that would oversee the process ahead the deadline date.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2006 set a global deadline of 2015 for the transfer of TV programming from the current analogue to digital platforms.
Considering the importance of the project and the quality of people in the Nigerian 'Digiteam', several experts have hailed the government decision. The team list includes Mr. Edward Amana, Efere Ozakor, Bruce Ayonote, Tunde Adegbola, Talba Alkali, ACG Umar Iya Abubakar and Godwin Iheabunike. Others are; Bashir Gwandu, Guy Murray Bruce, Maxwell Loko, Friday Ekweala, Veronica Adeyemo, and M.A Abu.
Amana, who has been assigned to chair the committee, is a Consultant in Broadcast and Television Engineering. Over the years, he has been involved in major technical projects in the broadcasting sector. Others in the list are people who have excelled in entertainment, broadcasting, civil service and customs.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, who inaugurated the team, admitted that the task before them was a unique and an important National assignment upon which Government placed a very high premium.
He pointed out that the modernisation of infrastructure and services is an integral part of President Goodluck Jonathan administration's priorities, adding that the process for selecting the members of the Digiteam took cognisance of their individual capacities and contributions to the industry.
Although the team is yet to hold its inaugural meeting as at the time of writing this report, analysts have urged them on the need to move fast and put national interest above individual benefits.
Head of Department of Mass Communication at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Mr. Jide Johnson, told THISDAY that he was sure of the ability of those who made the list to successfully midwife the project, but urged government to give them necessary support.
He said; "I have taken time to look through the profile of some members of the committee and I think they would successfully drive the process, but my fear is the challenge that could be posed by some bureaucratic measures and insensitivity of government. My advice therefore is that government should give them all the necessary support and encouragement to enable them give their best to the exercise.
An expert in digital transition, Mr. Jenkins Alumona, described the team as 'crop of experts' and commended the federal government for the step, while advising the team to move fast and work within its time frame to meet the 2015 deadline.
Alumona, who organised the recent dialogue in partnership with MultiChoice Nigeria and a few stakeholders, said, "With the recent step taken, one can be sure that government is set to take the bull by the horns, especially with the professional competence of members of the team. Having said this, I will only advise them to be conscious of time and the challenges ahead to be able to meet the deadline."
On the need for the committee to take the issue of sensitisation of members of the public serious, a Public Relations practitioner, Mr. Akonte Ekine, urged the team to give priority to creation of awareness in a way that an average person on the street would understand what the whole project is all about.
Speaking at a media parley organised to herald the New Year recently, the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Yomi Baderinwa, admitted that the transition was imminent and that his commission would work with the government team to meet the deadline.
According to him, some core responsibilities of the team are: to establish and implement a comprehensive public awareness programme in consultation with stakeholders and the regulator; follow-up all processes towards the enactment of all the enabling laws and necessary amendments to existing legislation; and develop the specifications of the set-up-box (STB) taking into consideration the need, or otherwise, for establishing a minimum specification for an STB.
He also stated that the team was expected to carry out all relevant activities related to the success of the transition programme among other important mandates.
Despite the sign of commitment to the project on the part of government, industry watchers believe that the newly inaugurated team will only, at the end be celebrated, if they carry out their responsibility in a way that the benefit of their service would be to Nigerians and not to any individual or a group.