…assures content developers of govt’s guarantee

ADDRESS BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE DIGITAL SWITCH OVER (DSO) IN KANO, KANO STATE.

I am delighted to be here today for the launch of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) in Kano State. I want to most sincerely thank His.

Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and indeed the people and government of Kano State, for their support and cooperation in making today’s launch a reality. Please permit me to emphasize the fact that His Excellency’s passion for the DSO Project is admirable and unparalleled. I have had occasions to discuss the DSO Project with His Excellency, and he has never left me in any doubt about his passion and commitment to the success of the project, especially in Kano State. His Excellency even invited me to address, in Abuja, members of his cabinet, as well as state and federal legislators from Kano State on the benefits of the DSO Project. Your Excellency, I thank you once again.

I also wish to commend all the stakeholders who have worked hard for the success of today’s launch. They include the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Digiteam, Broadcast Signal Distributors, Set-Top-Box Manufacturers, the Middleware providers – Inview and Renmore -, Broadcasting,Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and all members of the Ministerial Task Force on DSO, which I personally chair. Let me take us through the recent history of our efforts at rolling out the DSO project across the country.

Our last DSO launch was in Lagos on April 29th 2021, and it marked the beginning of the second phase of the DSO rollout. Since we launched the pilot programme of the DSO in Jos, Plateau State, on 30 April 2016, we have rolled out the DSO in the Federal Capital Territory, in Kwara State, in Kaduna State, in Enugu State and in Osun State. The journey may have been slow, but it has been steady and we will keep it so!

The Federal Government is vigorously implementing a comprehensive nationwide process of transitioning from analogue to digital television broadcasting, which is referred to as the Digital Switchover (DSO) project. The decision to transition from analogue todigital television followed a treaty that was signed at the Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, 2016 to usher in ‘all-digital’ terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television. This is aimed at creating a more equitable, just and people-centered Information Society, which would connect underserved populations and remote communities, thereby bridging the digital divide.

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The key benefits of digital television broadcasting are:

  • Wider choice in TV and radio channels;
  • Improved picture, e.g. HD, UHD and High-Fidelity sound
  • Greater flexibility with the potential for portable and mobile reception;
  • Enhanced information services including the Electronic Programming
    Guide or enhanced ‘teletext’ services (with enhanced graphics);
  • Potential for interactivity; and
  • Increased market competition and innovation thanks to the potential
    arrival of new entrants at different levels in the value-chain, for
    instance new service providers, broadcasters, etc.
    Additionally, the DSO process can enable a variety of competing service offers, improve digital service coverage even in remote, places, and improve access to communication networks while acting as a catalyst for better management of spectrum resources. Due to bandwidth restrictions, analogue television only offers a small selection of programs and is therefore outmoded. The same transmission channel used to broadcast a single analogue program can carry a multiplex of up to 20 digital programmes of better quality.

Thus, the DSO television platform, branded as FreeTV, provides users with ove r 60 digital channels, ranging from sports and music to movies and the latestheadlines. Both DTT and DTH transmissions of FreeTV are readily available throughout the country.

In addition to the broadcast services, FreeTV offers Value Added
Services such as:
i) Enforcement & Collection of TV Licenses
ii) Premium PayTV channels
iii) Push Video on Demand
iv) Information Services, and
v) Audience Measurement.

The Federal Government is prioritizing the DSO project because it is critical to the post-Covid recovery and prosperity of the Creative Industry. The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, working with its relevant agencies – NBC and APCON – has commenced the process of implementing Audience Measurement, which will go a long way in driving advertising spend to the DSO platform, thus helping the channels to fulfill their obligations to the Signal Distributors. We have also instituted a number of reforms, some of them necessitating amendments to the Broadcasting Code which we have since carried out, with a view to encouraging investments in the Broadcast Industry in particular and the Creative Industry in general.

On Monday (yesterday), I received the good news that a Federal High Court inLagos has thrown out the case brought by some busybodies challenging our power to amend the Broadcasting Code. This laudable judgement has cleared the way for investments to flow into the Broadcast Industry.

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As I have always said, the absence of a world class audience measurement regime has resulted in under-investment in the sector, which is necessary to foster the growth of the industry, as the Advertising community continues to rely on subjective factors when making decisions on the content they want, as opposed to how many viewers the content truly attracts. Consequently, television platforms are subjected to renting out space on their channels to sustain their businesses, and content producers are at the mercy of sponsors, a development which, unfortunately, skews the authenticity of their creative output in favor of a few decision makers, instead of the millions of TV viewers.

The existing model will never enable Nigeria’s Creative Industry to reach its full potential. It stunts the quality of the content that can be created and also limits the capacity of television platforms to invest in dynamic contents that consumers will be attracted to.
The Federal Government is also putting in place an Industry Framework that will ensure that content producers receive their just due for the value of the content they create, as well as provide objective guarantees to the Advertising community with regards to Return-On-Investment on media placements. This will then have the overall effect of guaranteeing greater spend by the Advertisers, who are all seeking to grow their market share. The Ministry, through NBC and APCON, has implemented a system to monitor the media purchases and ensure that advertising revenues are earned by the broadcasters in due time. The collaboration between NBC and APCON is to guarantee zero advertising debt for the broadcasting Industry.

I want to put on record that since I inaugurated a 14-member Ministerial Task Force in February this year to drive the DSO rollout across the country, we have made notable progress. Following the approval from the Federal Executive Council and the release of 50% of the outstanding payment, we have since disbursed part payment to al, stakeholders who are being owed. We have also initiated the process to complete the payment and put the stakeholders in good stead to carry out their obligations to the DSO project.

But I must say that, with the termination of subsidy, the funding of the DSO through the establishment and operation of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) made of States and private equity is critical to achieving a faster rollout and introducing new investment into the sector, with shared infrastructure costs.
Let me also say that no meaningful DSO Project can happen unless Set-Top-Boxes or Decoders are widely available and affordable, and some channels catering for children’s programmes, sports and religion are encouraged to thrive. Those channels are also critical to the success of the DSO, because they have the potential to attract many eyeballs to the DSO platform. Still talking about Set-Top-Boxes, affordability is a key factor in making digital television available to all. Indeed, Set-Top-Boxes represent the very minimum entry point in the world of digital television broadcasting.

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At the same time, it is necessary to ensure a reliable supply of low-cost STBs for purchase by the general public. I want to use this opportunity to implore state governments to be at the vanguard of providing Set-Top-Boxes to their people. This is because the provision of Set-Top-Boxes is a social service that will take governance to the grassroots and bridge the information gap between the government and the governed, among other advantages. For Kano State in particular, with a population of over 15 million peoples, governance will be revolutionized if each of the 2.4 million television households can have a Set-Top-Box.

Finally, I want to thank the NBC, Gospel Limited and Inview, which have worked in collaboration with the Kano State Government to organize a technical empowerment training for 50 technicians and 50 dealers drawn from the 44 local government areas of Kano state. The 50 technicians have since been given starter packs for installation and activation of decoders. I am reliably informed that the NBC has also conducted awareness training on the DSO for Information Officers of the NOA in the states and the local governments, and that about 500,000 decoders have been deployed to Kano by the Set-Top-Box Manufacturers, These are all very commendable efforts that will ensure the good people of Kano State enjoy the benefits of digital television, starting with the 24 channels that are coming on board in Kano state immediately after this launch.

On this note, Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all for your kind attention.