By Bukola Olanrewaju
The Federal Government has warned the Pay TVs in the country that the licence issued to them in 2014 by National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) will not be renewed because it was not in line with Digital Switch over (DSO) White Paper.
The notification stated in a letter by National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is likely to affect the like of MultiChoice DSTV/GOTV, Startimes and other Pay Tv in the country that their operations, in Nigeria, will come to an end in 2019 as their license expires June next year.
The Director General, National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Modibo Ishaq Kawu recently disclosed that all paid DTT operators including DSTV, GOTV and Star Times will be shut down by June 2019 unless they begin discussions with the two signal distributors, ITS and Pinnacle.
Kawu also said in line with a Federal Government White paper, Multichoice who is the owner of DSTV and GOTV as well as Star Times owned by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) will no longer be able to operate as both signal distributor and content provider.
Speaking at a press conference during the week in Abuja, Kawu said that in preparation for full implementation of switch over from analogue to digital signals, all operators in the sector including signal distributors, content aggregator, Set top Box manufacturers ought to be on the same page now, to help in delivering a seamless Digital Switch Over (DSO).
He stated that NBC has also informed the pay DTT operators, GOTV and NTA/STAR TIMES, to begin discussions with the two signal distributors, ITS and Pinnacle Communications.
“This is because, in line with the Government White Paper on the Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting, after June 2019, these pay DTT operators would no longer be licensed to operate as both content providers and signal distributors”.
The Digital Switchover otherwise known as the DSO is the Nigerian Government’s programme of migration of television from analogue to digital. The Nigerian DSO journey started with the inauguration of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC); this body was made up of experts and stakeholders in the broadcast industry and it was tasked with charting a road map for Nigeria in the DSO journey. The report of the PAC was submitted to government in 2008 but wasn’t considered until 2012 when a white-paper, based largely on the recommendations of PAC, was released.
Unfortunately, some of the recommendations of the white paper were already obsolete by the time it was released; this was because major events and milestones which couldn’t have been foreseen by the experts who constituted PAC had taken place. The white-paper was completely silent about pay Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) probably because it almost didn’t exist in Africa at the time the PAC made its recommendations, but between 2008 when the PAC report was submitted to government and 2012 when the government white paper was released, two DTT pay-tv operators already entered the Nigerian market. NTA-Star TV Network also known as StarTimes Nigeria and GOTV an offshoot of Multichoice began an aggressive roll-out of DTT infrastructure across the country, with the benefit of hindsight, the recommendations of PAC needed to have been updated before it became a whitepaper in order to factor in recent events that had a major impact on the industry.
Kawu further explained that DSO has been implemented in two mores states of Kaduna and Kwara at the end of 2017, bringing the number of states on DSO to four with FCT and Plateau topping the list.
He informed that NBC has already scheduled Monday, February 12, 2018 to switch on Enugu State while February 23 has been affirmed for Osun State just as Delta and Gombe states will be the next.
Kawu, who gave a schedule of the planned DSO, stated that the next phase will include one state from each of the six geo-political regions, during this year, 2018.
“We envisage that by the end of the third quarter of 2018, we would have switched on in 12 states around Nigeria,” he assured.
The NBC boss also commended stakeholders in the implementation process for their resolve to work together.
He said that at a retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, players in the sector were made to appreciate each others responsibility and a clear role was carved out for each player to guarantee a seamless transition in the DSO eco-system.
“We have also consciously delineated revenue streams for all players, an issue which was the basis for some of the rancour that existed before. The broadcasters, signal distributors, content aggregator, Set top Box manufacturers are all on the same page now, to help strengthen the work of delivering the DSO.
“Similarly, we are going to also begin a phased Analogue Switch Off (ASO), in Plateau State and the FCT, by the end of the First Quarter of 2018. And as part of acceleration of the work, we have commenced the digital mapping of Nigeria. It is a process that would help to give clarity to the entire DSO process,” he added.
Kawu also mentioned that NBC has submitted a long list of new radio and television stations to President Muhammadu Buhari for presidential assent.
“The President has always been encouraging the NBC to open up accesses for Nigerians to be able to register newer radio and television stations, because of his belief that they help to deepen democratic discourse, while also helping to create new jobs through the broadcasting value chain”, Kawu said.
He therefore urged broadcasters to use their medium to promote democratic ethos and discourage hate speeches as election year approaches and to be moderate in their reportage of sensitive national issues.