Business Hilights
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2 months to DSO, how ready are NBC, stakeholders to avoid another miss of deadline

No doubt, many Nigerians are yet to understand the meaning of Digital Switch Over (DSO) expected to take off in Nigeria from June 17 this year.

Already, some strategic cities are on board DSO including Abuja which was launched recently by the Vice president, Plateau State and Jos.

In a nut shell, DSO simply means transition of all TV related programming from analogue, that is antenna and tuning for stations right on the TV set to digital programming where there is no need for antenna and searching of stations right on the TV, but on a provided Set Top Box (STB).

Well, checks at the head office of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Abuja by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that the Director General, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu is in far away in United States working on serious matters relating to hitch free switch over in June.

Feelers say he is expected to either return before the end of the week or early next week as he may also travel to another country; all in the efforts to deliver the DSO on schedule.

A senior official of NBC confided in Business Hilights that our co o

Random checks at several offices of the Commission showed seriousness and readiness to deliver DSO as and when due.

A top official who spoke to our correspondent on grounds of anonymity said “the Commission is working round the clock with the support of the presidency and that of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Business Hilights recalls that Nigeria had missed DSO deadlines twice; in 2012 and 2015.

Though several pundits say the level quietness trailing NBC’s preparation may result in another miss, officials and close followers are upbeat that the possibility of achieving the June 2017 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the digital switchover of television broadcasting is very real.

This is more understood when the repeated assurances of the Commission’s DG, Kawu is put on the table.

NBC KawuAt all times, Kawu had maintained that the process of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting would be concluded before the deadline, having successfully launched the pilot phase of the scheme in Jos and Abuja.

Addressing stakeholders recently in Abuja, Kawu said  “I will also like to inform you that we have commenced the settlement of all indebtedness arising from the contracts awarded in respect of the DSO”.

“We have effected payments to the set-top boxes manufacturers. Settlement of their monies came to about N5 billion. The next phase of payment we are processing is what is due to the DSO backbone group, our signal distributors, ITS and Pinnacle Communications Limited. These payments would help our various stakeholder groups to meet their obligations as well as deepen commitment to the entire effort to achieve a nation-wide DSO.

“Today, more people are familiar with analogue broadcasting, with a restricted choice of programming due to limited space for channels, having to tune the TV to their region to pick up broadcasts or play with the antennae to get clear, uninterrupted signal.

On local manufacturing of STBs, it would be recalled that several companies had lined up for the job which they equally got from the NBC.

Virtually every region has one or more STB manufacturers and there are clear indications that many of the manufacturers are set to meet up with deadlines.

The supervising Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had last year revealed that the DSO is not just all about expenses, but there are several business and job opportunities in the process.

According to him, “Nigerians should also expect job opportunities that alleviate poverty in the long run because the government had issued a similar directive with Kenya on the local production of the set-top Boxes (STBs).

“At least 30 regional channels and 10 national channels, catering for local music, news, film, children programming and sports, will be created once Nigeria completes full digital broadcasting.

Continuing, Mohammed averred that “With 24 million TV households in Nigeria requiring a set-top box or Smart TV, thousands of jobs will be created by the companies licensed to produce the boxes. Besides the licensed companies producing the set-top boxes, hundreds of thousands of jobs will also be created from television production.

“These will include the production of music and movies, with the active participation of Nollywood, which will move to push for subscription for video-on-demand on the STB and online. The TV industry is also expected to experience an increase in number of writers, lighting, sound, camera and editing professionals as well as actors, installers to supply the market with STBs, TV sets and dongles, increase in television and online advertising, as well as the need to create apps to offer goods and services and for interaction and entertainment at every level.”

Startimes one year
L-r: Abike D, Usman Megawata, NTA DG, Ping Xin Xing, Cm, Startimes Group, Yomi Bolarinwa, NBC DG during the first year anniversary of StarTimes in Abuja in July 2011

While assuring that the former broadcast tactician, Mallam Kawu was committed to the highest standards of broadcasting regulation in the country, the Minister assured that “We will do everything to assist the growth of our industry; we will continue to provide the ambience for the flowering of broadcasting in our country. But we would never tolerate a regime of impunity; refusal to obey the law or being cavalier with licensing issues, especially a prompt payment of license fees”.

“The practice of going to the Aso Villa to seek black market endorsements for illegalities will not work in the current situation in Nigeria.

“President Muhammadu Buhari believes in processes and he would not help any licensee to flout the NBC Act. This is the reality of the new situation in our country.

In the South East, there were indications that leading car manufacturing giant, Innoson Motors recently secured about $300 million for the production of STBs expected to feed the region while there are other local investors in the deal including pioneer investor in ICT in Nigeria, Zinox technologies, and so many others.