By Princewill Ekwujuru
The entry of Gotv into Nigeria’s pay TV market was without doubt celebrated with enthusiasm from Nigerians. This could be attributed to the fact that Nigerians wanted competition, because only a negligible few could actually afford the cost of acquisition and subscription.
It’s a common knowledge that the pay Tv market in this part of the world was being dominated by Digital Satellite Television, DSTV, from the stable of Multichoice, with a negligible few having access to the services of the pay TV because of its cost of acquisition and subscription, which were beyond the reach of an average Nigerians.
Interestingly, with the June 17, 2015 deadline given by the International Telecommunications Union for the transition from analogue to digital television fast approaching, the pay Tv market seems to be witnessing a radical change. More operators are signifying their intentions to participate in that market, while some are increasingly becoming entrenched in the market, thereby giving DSTV, the dominant operator in the segment a run for its money.
Conversely, the advent of Gotv into the nation’s pay Tv market has generated controversies in the market, where others MyTv, Infinity Tv, Hitv though dead, have not succeeded may be due to their inability to stand the financial power of the leader; Multichoice.
There are insinuations that Gotv do not possess the licence to operate or Is it riding on the back of Multichoice to do business in Nigeria, this questions and more are being asked by concerned Nigerians.
According to them, Gotv was never, at any time, licensed to operate a digital terrestrial television (DTT) services as it is presently doing, adding that what it is licensed to do is the digital video broadcasting handheld, a licence that restricts it to provide service directly to handheld devices.
They have argued that since the federal government’s pronouncement, through the Honourable Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, in April this year, that the government would be licensing at least two signal distributors, out of which one would be public signal distributor that would comprise of the broadcasting access of NTA, FRCN and VON, another private signal distributor to steer away the market from being monopolistic, and to enable subscribers get values for their money.
“We would be licensing at least two signal distributors; one will be public signal distributor that will comprise of the broadcasting access of NTA, FRCN and VON. We also will be licensing another private signal distributor to provide the necessary competition that will give values to consumers of broadcasting content.”
Though seen as a welcome development by many, especially those who would have loved to participate as private signal distributors, unfortunately their zeal was dampened with the sudden debut of Gotv without a bidding process. Questions are if the company bidded who competed with it?.
Gotv started operation in Ibadan, Oyo State, Port Harcourt, River State and then Lagos, bringing cheaper pay TV services to subscribers in those states, it has become a pain in the neck of indigenous stakeholders.
‘We had expected that there was going to be a process where interested bidders would have been assessed and given the licence, based on competence and merit. But the sudden debut of Gotv into the market, in August, without such process, leaves much to be desired,’ complained an aggrieved stakeholder, who would not want his name in print.
Checks at the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), seem to lend credence to some of these claims. For instance, a top official at the Commission, argued that though the issue has been raging for sometime, the Commission, she stated, is still investigating the allegation levied against Gotv that it is doing an illegal operation.
‘We at the NBC have heard the claim and we are investigating. We want to know where the confusion comes from. We would get back to you immediately we finish with our investigation,’ she stated.
Interestingly, one thing is obvious, no DTT license has been granted GOTV in Nigeria. But, how come they are doing it without anybody raising eyebrow, especially from the regulatory quarters?
An IT expert: Johnbull Agbarakwu who spoke with this correspondent argued that Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVBT), which offers Digital Terrestrial Television services and Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVBH), which allows you to run a digital mobile television are two different things.
‘While the first allows you to transmit from video to terrestrial television, the other one deals with handheld devices such as mobile phones, I-pad etc. But the issue is that they are so intertwined that some smart ones take advantage of this, to delve in an area where they are not really licensed.
‘They always pretend it’s an offshoot. It is like being licensed to have a radio station and you now acquire equipment that make your signals go beyond the state,’ he argued.
He however attributed the development to very weak legislation on the part of the regulators.
‘The regulators are not simply doing enough to ensure that rules are adhered to’, he added.