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Countdown to 2012: BON strategises to meet digitisation deadline

By Michael Orie   |   20 December 2009   |   10:00 pm  

 

With the theme Countdown to 2012: Mid-Term Peer Review on Digital Transition, the choice of Lagos, as venue was understandable. It has the largest concentration of radio and television stations in the country.

The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), who was represented by his deputy, Princess Sarah Sosan, while declaring the assembly open, charged stakeholders in the industry to uphold the tenets of their profession and also, ensure that they discharge their social responsibilities to the Nigerian state, even while pursuing commercial viability objective.

The governor urged broadcasters to re-dedicate themselves to the production of content that would stimulate the nation’s youth and galvanize them to making positive and productive contributions to national discourse at all times.

In his own remarks, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State, Mr. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (Esq), described this year’s theme as apt and in tandem with the Lagos State government’s penchant for excellence.

In line with the state administration’s guiding principles, the commissioner said a policy of non-interference had evolved in the handling of state owned electronic media in Lagos and urged other state governments to do likewise.

Addressing members present, the chairman of BON, Alhaji Abubakar B. Jijiwa, said the choice of Lagos for the meeting was timely considering the enormity of the gathering. He noted, “there could never be a better place to discuss the theme of this assembly. Just as Lagos State is the seat of commerce and the live-wire of the nation’s industrial and economic development it is also the largest bastion of broadcasting in Nigeria blessed with an unequalled high density of radio and television stations in the state.”

Jijiwa said, “Lagos is very significant to BON because of the number of radio and television stations, both public and private, and the huge number of accompanying professionals both active and retired oiling the wheels of the nation’s broadcasting industry, including other associated professions that heavily rest on the electronic media, such as advertising, public relations, corporate marketing and communications, among others.

“Since the bulk of the nation’s broadcasting industry and its appendages are based in the state, the success or failure of the nation’s quest to transit from analogue to digital broadcasting will begin with’ high level compliance of radio and television stations that are located here,” Jijiwa pointed out. “Lagos is, therefore, the barometer, which we must use to measure our level of achievement in the analogue-to-digital transfer. Hence, the appropriate place to begin the countdown.”

In achieving the stated goal of transition in 2012, the chairman revealed, “BON has decided to put the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in its quarterly deliberations not only to sustain the discourse, but to ensure that it remains focused on the subject until full compliance is achieved.”

Assessing the state of development, Jijiwa, said, “it is, however, pertinent to ask ourselves, are we really counting down as the deadline to digitisation draws near? Can the transition succeed if the owners of the medium, be they Federal or State governments and publicly or privately owned, do not provide the huge capital outlay required to fund the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting?

“We must all be conscious of what we are going into as the countdown to 2012 begins. Digitisation is not just about acquiring new transmitters; it is a wholesome transformation within the broadcast system and auxiliary production equipment. It starts with the means with which our producers and reporters gather the news and programme materials.

“Then the studios that would be used to edit and record the materials before they are released to the transmitters. This elaborate process gives us the opportunity to improve on our working tools, methods and organisation around the creation of news bulletins and making good programmes. In other words, the digital regime being proposed will address the key element in the broadcast chain, namely the content of our programmes, if we sincerely name and share from our collective experiences.”

For the actualisation of this great mandate that is having many challenges, he is of the view that “this new scenario would thrust up a new working relationship between journalists and editors and between producers and studio managers and things would not be the same again in terms of the critical deliverable in broadcasting content. New positions such as editorial administrators, to act as liaisons between the production crew and the technicians in charge of the server, would emerge.”

The BON chairman said, “with digitisation, there is need to develop a user-friendly interface that allows existing editing applications to be used with the new systems. From their workstations, journalists can now utilise the now ubiquitous powerful search engines available at their disposal to view images and listen to audios and integrate them into their news and programming. Production assistants also now have vast possibilities to select images and sound from several virtual libraries and on-line archives which would significantly replace the traditional task of researching from video or sound tapes.”

Stating the enormity of other challenges to be faced, he said, “huge investment in broadcast equipment and manpower training, to enable us make informed choices and correct judgments in selecting when to move, in what direction and in selecting who to partner with to ensure that the transformation process conforms with the expected deliverables of digitisation. All these would only be possible if we know individually and collectively where we stand as at today, and hence the need for us to name and share at this forum.”

While stressing that it is important to ensure a smooth transition and also that no station is left behind, Jijiwa charged the organisation to “collectively focus on the opportunities to grow our broadcast industry, while at the same time try to mitigate risks by focusing on the technologies and resources necessary to enable us achieve the desired growth.”

As part of goals of the assembly, the organisation mapped out strategies to ensure a hitch-free joint transmission of the South Africa 2010 World Cup, whose right it collectively.

After deliberating issues confronting the organisation, presentations were made leading to the resolutions of the Assembly.

The BBC World Service Trust, in its presentation on the activities of the organisation, expressed gratitude to BON for its collaboration in programmes such as HIV/AIDS and Good Governance.

The One Goal Project made a presentation on the objective of the project, which is to promote education, using football especially the 2010 World Cup. The Project Coordinator, Mr. Martin Davies called on BON to help in promoting the education for the young, pointing out that about 17 million children world-wide are out of school, while Nigeria with eight million children out of school now leads the pack.

The Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Engr Yomi Bolarinwa, on the need for broadcast stations to concentrate on content generation while another body provides distribution platform. He said acquisition of transmission equipment is no longer a good commercial proposition pointing out that currently there is confusion in the way and manner stations source their hard wares resulting in colossal waste of resources.

For the Chief Executive, OSMI Communications, Mr. Rotimi Pedro, the collaboration with BON in acquisition of broadcast rights for FIFA tournaments in the past years have been a success. He expressed hope that the 2010 World Cup broadcast would be a more resounding success.

In a communiqu? released after the assembly, members urged Federal Government to expedite action on the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Digitisation.

They also resolved to demand a road map from NBC on the digital transition to guide member stations and their owners and to ensure that NBC writes state governors to facilitate the funding of the digital transition.

While commending the successes recorded in the transmission of FIFA Confederation Cup, Under-20 and Under-17 tournaments, agreed that member organisations be adequately prepared for the 2010 World Cup, which is six months away.

Members also noted that the joint transmission of the English Premier League ends in May 2010 and expressed the desire to bid for terrestrial right for the 2010 – 2013 Premier League.

Called for carving out Nigeria as a territory for the acquisition of the broadcast rights of future Africa Cup of Nations, and also, resolved to pay for broadcast right of the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games for the interest of Nigeria.

On industry debts, BON stressed the need for member stations to develop individual policy and advises against acceptance of advertisement from unregistered agencies and ensure that all adverts carry APCON certificates.

Considers successful, the Solsan workshop for Chief Executives held at Tinapa Resort, Calabar and calls for regular workshops in collaboration with donor agencies to upgrade the performance of member stations.

BON commends the success of the African Media Leadership Forum and its admission into the fold.



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