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Still on Digital Switch Over: House C’ttee, CCNL trade tackles

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…You’re an usurper – Committee report
…Your report is bais – CCNL

By Emmanuel Elebeke

Adhoc House Committee investigating the process of Digital Switch Over and one of the content aggregators, Cable Channels Nigeria Limited, CCNL, are trading tackles over the final report of the committee.

The report called CCNL an usurper while the company accused the committee of bias.

The company accused the committee of negating the provisions of the government White paper in its decisions.

On 22 June 2016, the Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate the process of digital broadcast switch over in Nigeria was constituted following the adoption of House Resolution (HR.24/2016) on a motion titled “urgent need to investigate the process of digital (Broadcast) switch over in Nigeria now slated for June 2017”

The Committee, in the course of the investigation observed that the DSO process was not implemented in line with Federal Government White Paper report on digital transition in Nigeria and that the Process was not driven by any legal or legislative framework as recommended by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

According to the report, “The Re-Broadcast operators using the MMDS (Multipoint Multimedia Cable Distribution System) frequencies had transited to digital since 2009, now operating under their collective business name, Cable Channels Nig. Ltd (CCNL), were licensed to undertake content aggregation. The Company was purportedly licensed by NBC without due process contrary to the Procurement Act.

“This License was not contemplated by the White Paper. Recommendation 30.4 of the White Paper on optimality of existing infrastructure, had envisaged an arrangement where existing broadcasters will enter into commercial arrangement with the Broadcasting signal distributor on how to dispose of their broadcasting infrastructure.

“Thus, CCNL as presently positioned is an usurper in the scheme of things. It plays some of the role and competes with signal distributors who are recognized as transmission platform owners and ultimately realizes revenue that should accrue to signal distributors. This regulatory irregularity as observed by NBC was a major obstacle to the realization of the DSO.

“The Company denied being paid millions of Naira (as aggregators) for the delivery of 20 million boxes. The Committee observed that the Company was only in the business of distribution and not in supply service.  However, the Committee noted that the STB Manufacturers were purely involved in supply services and were offered off takers guarantee fund by NBC to enable manufacturing and supply of STBs”.

However, Chairman of the company, Mr. Kunle Afolabi, says the report was not on point.

He said: ‘‘We were at the House plenary session, where we played our roles and gave our advice but unfortunately, the report was bias.  It is a report that recognised the roles of some stakeholders and refused to recognise the roles of others.

‘‘The White paper says there should be a role of the aggregator, whereas the report says the content aggregator should be removed, which is not in the practice worldwide and by that, not unacceptable to us.

‘‘We have decided to protest to the chairman of the House Speaker, to let him know what is going on and to let him see if they will use wisdom to mellow down those provisions that are bias. We also know that some members of the committee protested against the report, although it was adopted by the house.”

Afolabi said contrary to the misconception that CCNL was created by NBC as a conduit pipe to siphon public funds, it is yet to receive any seed funding from the NBC since inception of the DSO programme but rather generate funding for its operations.

‘‘The problem about the non-payment is that everybody in the ecosystem, including the signal distributor, the content owners and audience measurement people have been ceded one way or the other and we have not been ceded and they are accusing us of collecting money from NBC to produce Set-Top Boxes.

‘‘NBC does the ceding and we do not know how they do it. If they could cede one stakeholder with N1.6 billion, the other with N2.5 billion, there is no standard. But, there must be a standard. The standard should be used for everybody.

‘‘The White Paper clearly stated that signal distributor will need to be ceded to enable them convert their own existing equipment and upgrade them to what is needed for DSO.’’

He also appealed to the management of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to consider CCNL when distributing support funding in the ongoing Digital Switch Over from analogue to digital communication system.

He lamented that it was only CCNL among the stakeholders in the committee of DSO operators’ chain that has not been funded till date.

‘‘By our function, we are expected to help government in disseminating information of government programmes to the general viewing public through the value added into services.

‘‘We play vital role in the country’s DSO project by way of aggregating content for signal distributors.  Therefore, resulting in a cost effective approach to bring TV service from the channels to the homes of viewers,’’ he added.

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