Exactly three years after it commenced the transition from analog to digital broadcasting in Nigeria, the federal government has released additional N9.4 billion for the conclusion of the process nationwide.
So far, the digital switchover has only been piloted in Osun, Plateau, Kwara, Kaduna, Enugu states and the FCT, leaving the rest to continue to transmit on the analog mode, which is limited in scope and dynamism.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while inaugurating a 13-member ministerial task force headed by him, which is saddled with the task of completing the digital switchover across Nigeria.
At the ceremony, Mohammed pointed out that with the payment of the outstanding amounts due the stakeholders by the federal government, the roadblock the entire process had been removed, warming however that the government would no longer be subsidising the project but would encourage the private sector to drive the scheme which has enormous economic potentials.
Mr. Mohammed said that with the payment approval by FEC, and with 31 states to cover, there was no more excuse by the ministerial committee not to rapidly roll out the DSO across the country and meet the expectations of the government and Nigerians.
The minister made it clear that from now on, government involvement in the DSO would be limited and that the lucrative business would henceforth be spearheaded by the private sector.
He said: “We have studied the trend and it is clear that we have to reduce government involvement in the DSO ecosystem and allow the private sector to take the lead, on purely commercial terms. With the devastating effects of Covid-19 and the fall in government revenues, the Federal Government can no longer afford to subsidize the program, especially the Set-Top-Boxes and the Signal carriage, which ordinarily can and should be highly-competitive commercial ventures.
“And in order to begin the commercialization of the DSO, we need to create a structure and an ecosystem that is self-sufficient, self-reliant and able to generate revenue which will drive strategic growth in key areas. The details of that structure are for the Task Force to explore.
“My decision to set up the ministerial task force to drive the DSO process is hinged on the fact that a successful digital switch over is a massive job creator and a huge revenue generator. This process is capable of creating over 1 million jobs over the next three years.
“As part of our efforts to maximize the opportunities available in the process, we have made necessary changes in the broadcast Code to protect local jobs and production, we have started the process of introducing world class Audience Measurement and Media Monitoring to deliver on our potential 1-billion-dollar TV and Online Advertising revenue market and now we will ensure that the DSO ecosystem delivers value to the economy
The minister also gave a breakdown of the jobs expected to be created by the DSO, saying that manufacturing alone can create between 40,000 to 50,000 jobs under the project.
“This is because digitization requires all homes to have a Set-Top-Box or Smart TV. Connectivity to the Internet is also possible via a dongle attached to the boxes. And here we are talking about 24 million boxes/TVs, for the over 24 million households that have television sets today in Nigeria. Not even 20 Set-Top manufacturers can comfortably produce the initial requirements to feed the market. Furthermore, our position in West Africa, coupled with our size, makes us the definite source of these products for the whole sub-region.
“Television production alone can create 200,000 jobs. Digitization will make it possible to have at least 180 state channels, 30 regional channels and at least 10 National channels, catering for local music, news, film, children programming and sports, among others. This will create better competition because with the Audience Measurement and media monitoring system put in place you can now measure which programs people are watching so that value is rewarded. Digitization will also enhance the full propagation of local content being emphasized by the National Broadcasting Commission. Consequently more people will go into the TV production business.
“Film Production can generate 350,000 to 400,000 jobs. Just as Nollywood moved from VHS tapes to VCD and DVD, it will now, with digitalization, move to Push and Subscription Video-On-Demand on the Set-Top-Boxes and online, thus curbing piracy, making distribution cheaper and easier and putting more money into the pockets of film producers, who will in turn create more films of better quality, ultimately surpassing the current 2000 movies a year.
“The number of writers, lightning/sound/camera technicians, editors, actors and actresses, costume makers, etc, will grow exponentially, and the over 24 million Digital TV Households will become Nollywood customers in a more transparent, closer and formal manner due to digital distribution.
“As an extension to the booming production business, another 200,000 jobs can be created as Nigeria finally grows the capacity to meet the quality demand of fully-indigenous content creations, which will bring back the over 100 million dollars currently exported to South Africa, Europe and the United States by Nigerian producers, while seamlessly expanding the tourism potential of Nigeria as the rest of Africa come to the country for high quality production.
“Distribution: To supply the market with Set-Top-Boxes, TVs and Dongles required for internet connection, Nigeria will need at least 100,000 wholesalers, retailers, electricians, installers, marketers and payment solution providers in order to cover the entire country.
“Television and Online Advertising can create a further 50,000 jobs: The concept of advertising will become more local than national, because you can target customers at the bottom of the income bracket with products specific to their needs and location and, of course, fast moving consumer goods will have more forensic proof of their customers and what they watch and where they are.
“Finally, with a successful DSO, the problem of internet connection to every home will finally be solved. The Set-Top-Box in every home will deliver internet and consequently access and commerce to every home. Apps will be created to offer goods and services and for interaction and entertainment at every level.
“Most importantly, the spectrum that is freed up by digitization will become much more monetizable by the mobile/data companies and therefore more valuable to the government. This is capable of creating 200,000 jobs by internet entrepreneurs.
“Please note that I have not even touched on education and training for the industry, financing its various facets via venture capital and direct infrastructural requirement as well as equipment and management and/or consulting services, the foreign exchange earnings from selling and distributing our Films, Music and TV shows all over the world and the foreign direct investments into the country by companies looking for a slice of the last frontier.
“What about the boost to the Advertising Industry that will finally bring it to the level that our GDP dictates. I have no doubt in my mind that a successful DSO is not just a job spinner, creating over 1 million jobs in three years, but also a money spinner. The challenge to all of us now is to make the process a success.
Members of the ministerial task force are:
Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Chairman);
Prof. Armstrong Idachaba (National Broadcasting Commission)
Engineer Edward Amana (Digiteam);
Dr. Tunde Adegbola (Digiteam);
Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim (Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria);
Engineer Sadeeq Musa
Mr. Godfrey Ohuabunwa
Dr. Lekan Fadolapo
Ms. Aisha Shehu Omar (Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning)
Mr J. O. Attah (Nigeria Customs Service)
Mr. Nnanna Ibom (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture);
Engineer Olusegun Yakubu (Pinnacle Communications);
Mr. Joe Mutah (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture) who will serve as Secretary.