Non-release of funds threatens N69b digital switchover, may not meet July deadline
PLANS by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to ensure that Nigeria meets up with the June 17, 2015 deadline for transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting as set out by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) may suffer a setback due to non-release of funds.
About N69 billion is required by the NBC to ensure a successful switch over but up till now no money has been released to the commission for the project.
Director General of the commission, Mr. Emeka Mba, who disclosed this while inaugurating the Digitization Contact. Group in Abuja explained that the N69billion include the cost of subsidy for some homes in Nigeria to provide them with setup boxes and cost of buying back analogue transmitters from all the operators, cost of publicity, roll-out obligations and some subsidy for signal distributors to make sure they meet up with the roll-out time, funds for content and consultants.
He however, said, “We will continue to dialogue with government on how to secure funding, we are trying to use Digital Dividends as collateral to raise money for government in order for the commission to use part of the money to implement the process. We have commissioned a team of international spectrum experts to value the cost of the Digital Dividend Spectrum and the valuation points to the fact that government can make in excess, what it will spend.”
Mba noted that the work of the committee is to help the commission move faster in the transition process and also work out a framework that would help the signal distributors provide 80percent coverage of Nigeria, find out the cost, challenges and locations among others.
According to him, “NBC has approached the issue from a regulatory perspective, it is obvious to us in the industry that such a contact group is needed to make things faster and smoother. The set-up boxes manufacturers, signal distributors, and broadcasters. All the elements are fused in the committee; the Digi Team is looking after the White Paper to ensure that all the issues around the White Paper are implemented.
“The Digi Team in the last one year, looked at the issue of Signal Distributor and later chose the Signal Distributor and brought it to NBC to license. The Contact group would ensure that the distributor fulfills its obligation to the broadcasters and ensuring that the network is able to pick up by transmitting signals to the setup boxes. All the technical issues are dealt with on a practical level as it concerns the operators. We have one key element that is missing in the setup boxes which is the setup box control, government said in the White Paper that the setup boxes would be manufactured in Nigeria, the actual making sure that the investment of the setup boxes manufacturers are protected, we have to find ways to ensure that these government objectives are implemented.”
Mba observed that NBC has established setup box control, to make sure that the setup box manufacturers are protected and that people don’t bring in adulterated products into the country.
According to him, another challenges to ensure that signals do not interfere with that of the neighbouring countries.