23 October 2017

Nigeria: Digital Broadcasting and the Way Forward (I)

opinion

As a media communication stakeholder, this writer is often attracted to the much talked about issue of digital switch-over which the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has commenced in phases. In Abuja, the federal government recently switched on digital television broadcasting signposting the gradual discontinuation of analogue broadcasting. Though the Abuja digital switch-over came months after it was done in Jos, Plateau state but it is still worth celebrating. The Abuja end of the exercise is handled by a privately administered digital signal operator.

The NTA has another strategic arm of the DSO through its forward looking entity known as Integrated Television Service (ITS) which is regarded by the 'wise men' chosen by the federal government that came up with a technically sound whitepaper on the digitization switchover programme of the Nigerian government. This government-owned enterprise that has a technical partnership agreement with the globally reputable StarTimes of China is competently playing her own role as a strategic digital signal distributor.

Understandably, this highly innovative agency of the government's owned Nigerian Television Authority known as Integrated Television Service has recently come under a misguided campaign of calumny reportedly and allegedly linked to an allegedly discredited erstwhile staff of the Nigerian Television Authority Mr. Tony Dara who is said to have some deep seated grudges against his former employers for relieving him of his services when he allegedly absconded after he failed to return to Nigeria at the end of a scholarship overseas.

This Mr. Tony Dara is alleged to have a very uninspiring records during his service with NTA as captured by an internal management memo which spelt out the reason for the termination of his employment. The memorandum were sighted by this writer which convinced me that his recent serial articles to demonize the Integrated Television Service were instigated by his desire to destroy the good corporate image of his former employers for his own self centred and non-altruistic reasons.

There are strong enough reason to link his distasteful campaign against the ITS to some unsavory business partnership he unsuccessfully sought to strike with his former employers-the NTA which rejected the proposal he purportedly presentated for a training programme for the technical department of the Nigerian Television Authority.

At the last count, this fellow with alleged bottled-up angst against the NTA has authored articles in the media to ridicule the efforts, technical competences of the Integrated Television Service (ITS) in what is suspected to be a sponsored campaign to tarnish the good image of the management team of the ITS.

On their own part, this government agency in respect to the spirit of decorum has behaved in the most civilized way by intellectually debunking the kernels of this campaign of calumny by scientifically adducing evidence- based presentations to demonstrate the technical competences of their staff and management.

A philosopher by name C. Rajagopiachari had stated rightly thus: "To acquire money, man goes out of his gear surpassing all moral codes and civic awareness. So precious, but skin-deep and precarious a thing is civilization; one fair rough criterian of any civilization is the dearness and sanctity of its contracts. If civilization is to be bound up with material advancement, we must accept its inevitable consequence, loss of freedom in exact proportion to the march forward".

Then Radha K. Mukherjee added his voice of wisdom by asserting that: "It is the ultimate role of civilization to aid man to realize his highest potentialities".

We will return to this issue of a well-coordinated campaign to discredit the NTA by its former staff who himself was discredited by the way he was forced out of his employment due to circumstances that are said to have breached his employment status ab initio.

But first let's ask ourselves what the digital switch over is all about.

According to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Digital Switch Over (DSO) is the name given to the process of changing from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. The digital television transition or Analogue Switch-off (ASO) is also the process in which analogue television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television. But how does it benefit the consumers of broadcast services in Nigeria?

Digital broadcast according to experts, means that consumers can enjoy a wider variety of shows on multiple channels with a better quality of broadcast. It also facilitates reduced power and energy consumption and spectrum efficiency which brings a host of associated benefits for consumers and broadcasters. For instance, in Abuja, TV viewers will be able to enjoy 30 channels unlike the limited number of channels offered by analogue TV.

Many people today, according to an expert quoted in a Daily Trust's article, will be familiar with analogue broadcasting-having a restricted choice of programming due to limited space for channels; having to tune the TV to your region to ensure that you could pick up broadcasts; having to play with the antennae to get a smooth, uninterrupted signal. But digital TV has changed all that.

The digital dividend will be used by the telecom industry players, thereby giving internet access to the people, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Also, broadcast transmissions involve many players in the chain-content producers, chain programmers, point-to-point links (such as between the studio and the transmitter station), manufacturers and end users. All of them will benefit immensely from the DSO. What steps have we adopted to achieve this milestone of digitization of broadcasting in Nigeria?

Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)

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