25 August 2015

Nigeria: ITU Calls for Regulation of Online Media

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization, Engr. Shola Taylor, says Nigeria can use proceeds from available spectrum auction to achieve a seamless transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2017.

This is even as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) called for proper regulation of the online media to check unprofessional broadcasting.

Taylor stated this at the 23rd anniversary and first annual lecture of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) with the theme: New Media, Convergence and the Future of Broadcasting, held in Abuja.

He said the NBC needn't worry about raising the needed funds to execute the digital switch over project since it has in its possession a number of spectrums that can earn it over N100 billion from their auction.

According to ITU, the continued operation of online media has given room for a lot of abuse of the profession and unguided journalism practice and advocated that a system be put in place to checkmate the trend.

He then urged the NBC to focus on the process of auctioning all available broadcasting spectrums and plough the proceeds into its digitization programme so as to meet its new dateline.

The Commonwealth scribe, who underscored the role of spectrum management in relation to digital dividends, maintained that Nigeria has no reason not to meets the new dateline on digital switch-over if government could reach an accord on the possible auction of spectrums to free the needed funds to execute the project in record time.

"The spectrum which is available as a matter of facts, if it is auctioned, the revenue that come from the auction can be used to fund the digital transition.

"Spectrum which is allocated to NBC should be auctioned out of their own regulatory system just like NCC is doing in the telecom sector.

"If the spectrums are auctioned efficiently, the proceeds can be used to fund the transition programme. I am sure that will be receptive to both government and regulator.

"All these will translate to recommendations for NBC to take forward to government," he explained.

Recall that the NBC has fixed 20th June, 2017 as a new dateline for analogue to digital transition.

Engr. Taylor also conversed for a national dialogue on information and communication technology sector to fashion out a roadmap for the industry to thrive and be competitive.

While recommending US approach to liberalization of the sector, the Commonwealth scribe said liberalizing the sector will not only open up the sector but provide unhindered access to various application services to Nigerian consumers.

"I recommend that we start a national dialogue on whether we accept the kind of services we are currently receiving as part of liberalization.

"We have seen various countries take different approaches in a way every user will have unhindered access to various applications as in US.

"This dialogue will proffer the way forward. The challenges operators are having in Nigeria like multiple regulations, multiple regulation, the whole broadcasting environment among others have to be properly looked into to move forward."

He decried the challenge being faced by the telecommunications operators in Nigeria and called on stakeholders to support them in order to succeed.

Taylor, who didn't not spare the operators on the high cost of roaming services demanded that all their tariff plans be reviewed to avoid exploitation.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Director general of NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba reassured on the new digitization dateline, saying that the Commission is working hard to put all the building blocks in place to attain the new target.

Mba, who blamed the June 2015 failure on funding challenge, said the Pilot-City-DSO conducted in Jos has achieved 90 per cent coverage in the whole of the state.

As part of plans to hasten the transition process, he informed that the Commission had recently appointed in view a Uk based software company, Technologies limited for the provision of a national common Set-top-Box system with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

According to him, eleven companies were licensed to manufacture the needed set-top-boxes in Nigeria to complete the process, even though the first batch to be used would be imported to allow for set up time for the factories.

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