By Emmanuel Elebeke
THE 11th Biennial Conference of African Broadcasters (AFRICAST) ended in Abuja last weekend with stakeholders warning the current administration about the mistakes of the past regime that militated against Nigeria’s smooth transition to digital broadcasting.
The stakeholders charged the government to take measures that would enable it beat the June 2017 deadline on transiting from analogue to digital broadcasting.
The conference which had in attendance a total of 1,181 participants from Africa, America, Europe and Asia brought together many broadcast content producers, equipment manufacturers and marketers, with the theme: Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting: Financing Quality Content, held from 18th – 20th October, 2016 at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja, the venue since inception in 1996.
Some speakers, who spoke at the conference, attributed the past failure of digitization process in Nigeria to lack of political will, inadequate funding and a lack of synergy among stakeholders.
They also observed that there is still inadequate knowledge of the DSO among broadcasters and the public, despite the drive by the NBC since 2002.
Although, they said Jos Pilot DSO, has been largely successful, but highlighted some key fault lines to be adjusted in the proposed Abuja roll out. Participants also suggested that a hybrid Signal distribution model which allows both pay TV and Free TV content should be encouraged to make business profitable for investors; warning that inadequate Set-Top Boxes, STBs at the point of switchover will encourage black racketeering.
Professor Gerald Igyor of the University of Pennsyvania, USA, and Professor Victor Kogah of the Imo State University were among other speakers who emphasized the need for training of personnel, and called on government to focus on providing the enabling environment and allow professionals do the rest.
They argued that Digitization may be eroded if local producers were not empowered to make local content key. Part of the resolutions reached at event was that for Nigeria to ensure a successful DSO, all stakeholders including state governments should partner with the NBC and the federal government in mobilizing resources and creating public awareness for a successful Digital Switch over.
They also suggested that content production should recognize the various professionals involved in content production, financing, marketing and delivery to maximize their gains.
For them, adequate STBs should be made available for roll out in all states to forestall the possibility of black market practices.
They equally said that government should create enabling environment that would encourage the local production of STB components and other broadcast equipment to stop importation. Participants further urged that the white paper on Digitization should be followed in the DSO implementation process to ensure a successful transition.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, had earlier drew attention to the larger implication of the roll out of digital terrestrial broadcasting and its benefits in providing better broadcast services and new revenue streams to the general populace.
He enumerated the efforts and commitment of the Federal Government in meeting the new DSO deadline of June 2017, including the provision of affordable Set-Top-Boxes (STBs).
He said the success of the Jos DSO pilot project, where people now have access to 15 Free TV channels, shows that the nation can achieve diversity and pluralism in media choices. He announced that the Federal Government has concluded plans to roll out in Abuja before the end of 2016 while roll-out to other states in Nigeria will continue in phases till the set date of June 2017.
The Director General of the NBC, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, said that AFRICASTwas an international conferences like the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in the USA, the International Broadcasters Conference (IBC) in the Netherlands and MIPCOM in France.
He emphasized that the theme of the conference is also in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive for a digital economy and expressed hope that AFRICAST 2016 will unleash the creative talents of our youth in the emerging digital ecosystem where the nation’s 70% local content philosophy could be achieved.