BY Omo Oba Aderibigbe Adeleke Tella
President Muhammad Buhari may have put Nigeria on a stage for a profound shift towards huge wealth creation when on April 30th 2016, he made possible the Digital Switch Over (DSO) in Jos. By December 2016, the present government made sure that Nigeria has reached a point of no return when the Abuja phase of the project (transition from analogue to digital broadcasting) was successfully launched. But why are Nigerians not celebrating President Buhari for opening this channel of wealth, which without prejudice past administrations struggled but failed to achieve?
There seems to be a lack of full understanding of the implications of switching from the ageing terrestrial broadcasting to digital terrestrial broadcasting in terms of general wealth creation in Nigeria. That precisely is the object of this article. Having a cerebral engagement with my team was incumbent when the reality of digital television comes knocking like never before in the history of this country. By that, I was able to see huge opportunities in Digital Terrestrial Television for young and up-coming entrepreneurs, engineers, software developers, writers, script writers, film and video producers, computer game producers, graphic artist, animators, costume designers, advertising and the list goes on and on. Although, I have a background in accounting and later a masters in Legal studies with specialization in International Law and Diplomacy, I have invested in the creative industry so much that I pay passionate attention to its growth.
While I agree with the Minister of Information and Culture,Alhaji Lai Mohammed, when he spoke at the DSO launch at Mpape hills, Abuja, that the switch over will grow the advertising revenue of broadcasting organizations by $400 million per annum and create a ₦100 billion per annum free TV distribution network for Nollywood; I dare to declare that the overall figure for the entire creative and digital sector runs into several billions of dollars per annum if properly tapped.
To get a sense of how these huge benefits will come to Nigerians, we need to look at the digital value chain in order to enumerate the advantages to broadcasting companies, the consumer and the government.
In the first instance, broadcasters will benefit immensely in cost savings on equipment purchase and maintenance, salary and other human overhead costs. They will also be able to carry up to four or six channels on the same frequency, and digital programs can be syndicated. In other words, under the analogue system, if you are watching NTA at 9pm, you will only be able to watch the News only, whereas, with Digital Television, you can watch up to four or six programs on the same NTA at the same time.
Technically speaking, digital broadcasting standards automatically increase the capacity of networks by improving spectrum efficiency, that is, more data can be transmitted per unit bandwidth. Convergence of media on the digital television allows between 4 and 18 services to be accommodated. You can text, send email etc.
Another benefit is the much announced high quality signal quality which rejects noise, interference and lower energy consumption. With these, we see a load of diesel consumption removed from the shoulders of broadcast stations.
As for content producers, by that, I mean independent program producers, film producers for both radio and television; the opportunity is extremely huge. The fact is, as the broadcast stations increase their channels, they will need contents to fill the space every hour of the day and night, so demand for good and quality content will increase just as the competition will inevitably increase.
What are the benefits to consumer? Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) offers the consumer very wide range of benefits to include wider choice of programs and services, high definition TV, fast data services without internet and little or no signal interference plus great picture quality.
Other benefits that I am able to fish out includes a range of interactive applications like games, enhanced teletext, more user friendly interfaces and brilliant personalization like subtitling, multi-lingual and multi screen capabilities.
There is also what I call great convenience in DTT. You can order ‘video-on-demand’– this catch up service allow viewers to watch programs at a time of their choosing. And parents can lock the screen either by program classification or the full channels. My research confirms that there are young software developers of Nigerian descent who are already perfecting more applications for a richer TV viewing. I am also aware that more advance services like voting can be enabled in cases where a return channel is available and there is political will to execute it.
President Buhari must be seen as an early adapter and adopter of technology. We know that by BVN and T.S.A which has made huge difference to the economic landscape of Nigeria. With the crossover from analogue TV to Digital Terrestrial TV, more and greater benefits will accrue to government. For example, interactive application will evolve to robustly provide a very low cost way of delivering public services to over 30 million homes who do not have broadband access. Things like early warning systems for natural disasters, CCTV system in the neighborhood against robbers and hoodlums and faster information on terrorism are easily broadcast in real-time.
There is also the resilience attached to the communications infrastructure. For example, the national administrators have a greater level of control over DTT system compared to IP network and satellite platforms which are always outside the country’s jurisdiction.
There are also some wider benefits to Nigeria’s economy which the government can engineer. For example, the experiments on Digital broadcasting started in 1940, and by the first day of November 1998, the first digital signal were transmitted in the United States. Thereafter, the Congress directed their regulating body, FCC, the equivalent of our own NBC to forbid all stores to sell TV‘s without an internal tuner within a giving time frame. Although the external set-top-boxes (STB’s) are currently imported for expediency reasons and the Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed promised that the rest millions will be manufactured in Nigeria, the government should compel the manufacturers of TV sets with integrated digital tuners (IDTVs) to make them in Nigeria and definitely aerials and other components should be made in Nigeria considering the multiplier effects of such local initiative on the economy.. Consider the number of jobs that will be created and technology transfer advantage for our up-coming technicians.
As you read this article, the creative and digital industries is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United Kingdom and internationally. In the UK creative employment is totaled 2.9 million jobs and rising. It is said that the creative industries are worth more than £10million an hour and the export services of creative industries accounted for 8.7% of total export services for UK in 2013 alone.
The benefit of the emerging Digital Terrestrial Television is truly huge both in terms of job and wealth creation. We must salute the courage, thoroughness and smart moves of the present government for enabling the roll-out of the DSO. Equally we all must recommend the leadership of NBC especially Mr. Edward Amana for National honors for scaling all manners of hurdles, red-tapes and bureaucratic landmines to deliver the project. We must also continue to put pressure on the government until all the nations is covered.
Omo-Oba Aderibigbe Adeleke Tella is the CEO of Tributes Television
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