The best way to start this piece
on this thorny issue is to narrate
what a successful digital switch
over of broadcasting did to the
local television industry in one
of the African nations that has
successfully become a global
brand in terms of political
stability, industrialization, good
governance and Tourism.
This country is Rwanda where
the charismatic politician Mr.
Paul Kegame has presided over
the political affairs of that African
nation with unprecedented
success for a considerable amount
of time.
In our effort to make the best
out of the already worst case
scenario in the nearly unending
trajectory of digital switchover
in Nigeria, this writer decided to
understudy the very few success
stories in Africa namely Rwanda
and Tanzania. We will look at
South Africa, too.
Nigeria having missed the
initial date in 2012, government
was forced to shift migration
date to June 17, 2015. Although
the NBC was ready to conclude
the migration in 2015, but it was
faced with cash constraints, as
the federal government did not
release the necessary funds for
the migration.
A reflection on the success
story of Rwanda is done so as
to recommend to Nigeria to
adopt the same modality and
stop further muddying up of a
scientific process that must not
be thrown into the cesspool of
corruption or used for political
pugilism.
Ben Gasore a journalist wrote
that Rwanda was the second
country in sub-Saharan Africa
to migrate from analogue
television transmission to digital
broadcasting by June of 2014.
This was in 2014 about the
same time that the Nigerian
government was busy setting up
a committee which eventually
wrote a national WhitePaper.
Specifically, the whitepaper
was released in 2012, the PAC
submitted its report in 2008. But
the implementation is frought
and characterized by needless
and meaningless bureaucratic
bottlenecks meant to put public
money in the pockets of corrupt
and bribe seeking officials.
But in Rwanda, during the
four-phase exercise, over 51,000
television sets were switched off
across the country by the Rwanda
Utilities Regulatory Agency
(Rura).
Prior to digital migration,
Rwanda had for decades only
had one free-to-air television
station, Rwanda Television.
Those who could afford opted
for pay TV Tele10, which aired
foreign programmes.
Later in 2007, the pay TV market
monopoly by Tele10 was broken
by Star Africa Media (popularly
known as StarTimes).
In 2008, the government
announced plans to digitalize the
Rwanda Broadcasting Agency
(RBA) network following the
June 17, 2015 deadline set by the
International Telecommunication
Union for analogue TV switch-over.
Rura then licensed Tele10,
Star Africa Media, TransAfrica
and Sorim to import top boxes
(decoders) to facilitate the switchover.
At the time of this referenced
article in 2014, 50 per cent of the
TV sets in the country were for
analogue transmission.
According to Rura statistics, in
2014 there were over 192,000 users
who have acquired decoders and
digital coverage is now at 95 per cent.
Decoders cost between Rwf23,500
and Rwf32,000, depending on the
vendor.
The switch to digital broadcasting
has boosted the industry, with a
number of local TV stations setting
up shop. Rwanda now has seven
TV stations. They are Family TV, TV
One, TV10, CNBC Africa, Lemigo
TV, Contact TV, Yego TV and
Rwanda Television.
The writer stated that there are
several opportunities digital TV
presents but industry players are
yet to tap the benefits fully.
Digital broadcasting he affirmed
offers more freed-up frequency
spectra, thus making it easier for
more entrepreneurs to start TV
stations. This presents creative
Rwandans opportunities to
produce cheaper local content that
suits viewers’ preferences. If we get
it right in Nigeria, the benefits will
be tremendous.
TV proprietors will have to come
up with new marketing strategies to
attract adverts.
Market analysts say it is up to
the media houses to convince
companies and government
institutions to advertise with them.
If there is a public policy in Nigeria
that its implementation is shrouded
in unnecessary confusion especially
in the last five years, it is the policy
on the digitization of broadcasting
in Nigeria from analogue to digital.
The Nigerian Broadcasting
Commission seems complicit in the
lack of progress in achieving full
digital switch over of broadcasting
in Nigeria.
According to the National
Broadcasting Commission (NBC),
digital Switch Over (DSO) is the
name given to the process of
changing from analogue to digital
TV broadcasting.
Digital broadcast according to
experts, means that consumers
can enjoy a wider variety of shows
on multiple channels with a better
quality of broadcast.
It also facilitates reduced power
and energy consumption, and
spectrum efficiency which brings
a host of associated benefits for
consumers and broadcasters. For
instance, in Abuja, TV viewers will
be able to enjoy 30 channels unlike
the limited number of channels
offered by analogue TV.
A fundamental disadvantage of
analogue broadcasting is that it has
a restricted choice of programming
due to limited space for channels;
having to tune the TV to your
region to ensure that you could
pick up broadcasts; having to play
with the antennae to get a smooth,
uninterrupted signal. But digital TV
has changed all that.
Digital broadcast transmissions
involve many players in the
chain-content producers, chain
programmers, point-to-point links
(such as between the studio and the
transmitter station), manufacturers
and end users.
Recall that ITU (international
Telecommunications Union) gave
Nigeria up to June, 2017 to switch
from analogue broadcasting to
Digital to free up some spectrum for
telecoms use.
Television owners generally will
be expected as of necessity to get set
top boxes to receive digital signals.
This is a box-shaped device
known as set-top box (STB) that
converts a digital television signal
to analogue for viewing on a
conventional set, or that enables
cable or satellite television to be
viewed is a critical component of the
entire mechanisms of digitization.
The government subsidized set
top boxes according to the NBC are
being sold across markets and shops
at N1,500. But TV viewers will pay
N1000 annually for TV license
fee, which would be put inside a
fund for the use of the industry
and Nigerians. Also, those with
low signals in their areas will need
external antennas that will give
them clear signals. These are still
illusions in a lot of homes.
Sadly, this switch over process
which should not be muddied up
in the murky waters of politics has
suffered the notorious fate of being
subjected to all sorts of organized
policy summersault, all in a bid
to use the transition process in
the broadcast industry to enrich
some persons who have friends in
government.
Since the year 2012, Nigeria which
is obviously the largest black nation
in the World has failed to effectively
achieve this transition due to poor
policy implementation.
The apparent failure on two
occasions to meet up with the
target of this digital switch over has
therefore left this writer wondering
whether we are cursed not to always
follow the best global practices
and follow better examples from
technologically advanced nations
such as the West and China but do
often allow bureaucratic bottlenecks
to unduly frustrate the realization
of good programmes and public
policies.
Writing in the book “Public Policy:
formulation, implementation
and evaluation,” R.K. Sapru has
considered officials of government
to be decisive and resolute in
picking and choosing the best of
policies to be implemented.
The writer stated thus:“Policy
Inputs are the demands made on
the political systems by individuals
and groups for action or inaction
about some perceived problems.
Such demands may include a
general insistence that government
should do something to a proposal
for specific action on the matter. For
example, prior to the passing of the
Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act
of 1987, some organizations voiced
a general desire for enactment of
law on the ‘sati-pratha’ issue.”
“In other words, policy outputs
are the actual decisions of the
implementers. They are what a
government does, as distinguished
from what it says it is going to do.
Examples of policy outputs relate
to such matters as the education
institutions built, taxes collected,
compensation paid, or curbs on
trade eliminated. Outcomes are
real results whether intended or
unintended.”
There are various reasons why
a holistic switch over has been
impossible, for example, Since
the ITU declaration in Geneva
2006 on DSO, Nigeria and several
African countries have been faced
with infrastructure and funding
challenges in meeting their
obligations on DSO.
It is apparent that pushing the
responsibility of completing the
DSO migration to their various
ministries, amidst lack of adequate
funding on the part of government,
poor broadcasting infrastructure
among others have stalled this
process.
The journey towards the
preparation for digital switchover
really started in Nigeria over a
decade ago, in May 2006, after
Nigeria signed international and
regional agreement to conclude
digital migration by June 17, 2012.
In a bid to achieve the 2012
migration date, the federal
government, in 2007, approved
the process of migration, and in
2008, inaugurated a Presidential
Advisory Committee (PAC) on
transition from analogue to digital
broadcasting.
The committee was given
the responsibility to come up
with a policy, framework and
a broadcasting model for the
process, and in 2009, the committee
submitted its report with several
recommendations.
Government, however, kept the
recommendations for three years
and did not release the white paper
for digital migration, a situation
that caused Nigeria to miss out on
the June 17, 2012, initial date for
migration.
Among the ways to effectively
complete the migration process,
a keen look must be taken at the
model adopted by other countries
such as South Africa, Rwanda and
Tanzania.
For example, StarTimes, a
privately held Chinese broadcasting
company as observed from the piece
by the Rwandan journalist, has
played a part in the drive towards
digital switch over in East Africa.
South Africa is, like the rest of
Africa, located in ITU Region 1 and
therefore subject to the removal
of protection for its analogue
television frequencies in June
2015.
Chris Armstrong and Richard
Collins observed that South
Africa has formally taken on this
challenge, devoting considerable
resources and policymaking effort
to implementing a transition from
analogue to digital television –
with, however, little constructive
effect.
The duo stated that both
Mauritius and Namibia have
adopted the DVB-T standard
– the same standard which
South Africa and other Region 1
countries formally adopted at the
ITU RRC-6 meeting.
South Africa, they said has set
successive ambitious targets for
digital switchover of television
(ie, migration of its terrestrial TV
signals from analogue to digital).
In early 2007, the South African
Cabinet approved a digital
switch-on date of 1 November
2008 and analogue switch-off on
1 November 2011 – thus calling
for a rapid three years migration
period (RSA, 2007).
This migration timetable
was reaffirmed in the draft
Department of Communications
(DoC) strategy and
implementation plan documents
released in March 2007 (DoC,
2007a, 2007b); re-emphasized in
then-Communications Minister
Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri’s
Budget Vote Speech in May
2007 (Matsepe-Casaburri, 2007),
and integrated into the DoC’s
official Digital Migration Policy
of August 2008, latterly, however,
the DoC has acknowledged that
the switchover target date may
need to be reviewed (Ensor,
2010; McLeod, 2010c), and the
regulator ICASA has ruled that
analogue switch-off can only be
in 2013 at the earliest. By 2015,
South Africa still hasn’t achieved
digital switchover because
of disagreements amongst
broadcasters.
If the Government of Nigeria
were to adopt this model, to allow
already existing infrastructure
be upgraded and developed
by players in the broadcasting
industry using the StarTimes
model, perhaps a full migration
would have been achieved.
The model this writer is
canvassing is to allow all
carriers like Startimes or GOTV
carry free Tv signals in their
areas of coverage on behalf of
government. this way subscribers
won’t be saddled with new STBs
that the government can’t afford
and we can achieve DSO faster,
but government should look
for a way to protect all players,
like STB manufacturers, signal
distributors.

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