Nigeria: FG Moves to Amend NBC, NTA Laws Ahead of Digital Switch Over

Regulation & Policy

In a bid to beat the June 17, 2015 deadline given to Nigeria by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to switch over from analogue to digital television, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) says it is working closely with the National Assembly to amend the relevant laws of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and that of NBC, which will enhance a hitch-free Digital Switch Over (DSO).

Specifically, the amendment will cover relevant sections of the Acts of both organisations that affect digital contents streaming.

Director-General of NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba who gave the hint in Abuja during a recent media parley, also said the commission was working towards the licensing of Digital Terrestrial Signal Distribution Companies and that the licensing processes would be completed before the end of March this year.

According to Mba: "Although ITU gave Nigeria up till June 2015 to achieve its DSO coverage, we have given ourselves a set target of December 31, 2014 to accomplish the digital switch over, before the ITU's June 2015 deadline. In fact we had since commenced digital television streaming in Nigeria with StarTimes, GoTv, DSTv, and MyTv."

He explained that in order to meet up with the December 31, 2014 deadline that was set by the NBC, the commission has selected the city of Jos in Plateau State as the switch over test city and has installed several equipment in the city, in preparation for a switch over test-run by June this year.

"When Jos is successfully carried out, we will install other test centres in other parts of the country, in preparation for the digital switch over," Mba said.

He added that the commission would at the end of this month, begin a massive orientation campaign, in collaboration with government agencies and institutions such as the Nigerian Customs Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Orientation Agency and the Nigerian Police, to sensitise Nigerians on what they must do to be able to connect to digital television streaming.

He said the country had already placed a ban on analogue television sets importation into the country, in preparation for the digital switch over, and assured Nigerians that the Federal Government is working hard to ensure that Nigeria attains the feat and become digitally complaint by 2015.

Mba however explained that it was not possible for Nigeria to attain 90 per cent coverage of the entire country with digital terrestrial transmission alone, without the support of satellite transmission. He therefore said the commission was already working with international satellite providers like Intelsat and local satellite services providers like the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat), to provide satellite communications services that would complement the digital terrestrial transmission.

Speaking on the importance of setup boxes for the DSO, Mba said: "Setup boxes that we have can be used from one signal distribution to another and can also do conversion from analogue to digital. He however explained that Nigerians should begin the local manufacturing of setup boxes in Nigeria, to ensure availability at reduced cost.

Mba who was particular about digital contents, said the commission was already working with local applications solution providers to develop local content that would promote Nigeria's culture. He said a lot of software developers have local contents and were looking for where to display them.

On the issue of digital penetration, Mba said the commission was already working to ensure that the 26 million television households in the country, get 90 per cent digital coverage by 2015. He said that though funding had remained a major challenge, the commission would work with the private sector to raise the N68 billion needed to fund 90 per cent coverage of the digital switch over.