No fewer than 200,000 average Nigerians will have access to at least 15 free-to-air television channels from April 30 when the pilot scheme of Digital Switch On, DSO, will be launched in Jos.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Friday in Jos when he paid a visit to Plateau Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden.
The minister, who was accompanied on the visit by members of the Ministerial Task Force for attainment of the pilot scheme, confirmed the June 2017 deadline for switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Mohammed, who assured that his team was prepared for the pilot scheme, said that from the take off date in Jos, those who could not afford digital cable like DSTV and Startimes would have access to at least 15 free channels.
The 15 free channels according to the minister, included, African Movie Net, CNBC Africa, NTA, Channels Television and AIT.
He said that the government was also prepared to give free set up boxes to the beneficiaries of the pilot scheme.
“`By April 30, the 200,000 targeted viewers in Jos alone will be able to get their set up boxes which will be fixed to their television sets.
“When they switch on the television from that date they will be able to view, free of charge, 15 channels as opposed to the four that they see today.
“I am not talking about those who have and can afford cables, but about the average Jos man who relies on the terrestrial television,’’ he said.
The minister solicited the support of the state government towards equitable distribution of the free boxes, stressing that it should not be based on partisanship.
According to him, the programme is for every Nigerian and not members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) alone.
“We want to ensure seamless distribution of the set up boxes. Because it is a pilot scheme, we have a limited number of the boxes, at least 200,000, which we are going to give free to viewers in Jos,” he said.
The minister said that the switch on would provide job opportunities for talented young men, particularly those who would be providing content applications.
He said it would also make it easier and more comfortable for artists to relate their compositions straight to digital platform.
Mohammed reiterated that the issue of going digital was not a matter of choice because the ITU, a UN specialised body for ICT, had given deadline of June 2017 for the country.
He said failure to meet with the deadline would mean a violation of international treaty while the nation’s broadcast system would also be at the mercy of interference.