By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Experts say that digital broadcasting has advantage over analogue broadcasting, as it has capacity for data compression; more efficient bandwidth usage; more room to provide services and higher quality signals.
Mr. Emeka Mba, the Director-General of NBC said that digitisation would improve quality of broadcasting in Nigeria and noted that a pilot project for switch over started early in the year in Jos.
“ We went to see Gov. Jonah Jang of Plateau, and we have the full support of the state; full support of all the broadcasters in Plateau, both public and private media; NTA, all the free to air television stations and privately owned ones.
“ We set up a committee which has all the elements; all the stakeholders are involved,’’ he said.
The director-general said that digital migration was timely, as most televisions in Nigerian homes are analogue.
“With digital compression, we can actually switch up to twenty channels into that one space that Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) is occupying today.
“In other words, you can have up to 20 NTAs in the space NTA occupies today.
“So, it is not just a question of quantity, but also quality, because the signals based on digital will have crisp, the picture will be much sharper signal pictures, and you will have the opportunity to do digital surround sound, and so many other applications,” Mba stressed.
The NBC boss said that with digital TV, Nigerians could know what would come next on the TV and could easily monitor what children watch on the screen.
According to him, digitisation implies that some Nigerians with analogue TV will not receive the signals as they are not compatible.
He however said affected persons could purchase a set-top box that would connect the analogue television set to digital signals.
The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), on its parts, promised to cooperate with the NBC to ensure smooth transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
The organisation however appealed to the Federal Government to establish a fund to enhance a seamless digital transition programme.
The Chairman of BON, Malam Abubakar Jijiwa, who made the appeal at a meeting organised by NBC, said government’s encouragement would assist broadcast outfits meet the 2015 deadline.
“The challenges in the broadcasting sector are becoming more complex as we move closer to the switch over date of 2015.
“We, therefore, want to call for a marshal plan to assist broadcast stations with the needed funds to actualise our goal of transiting seamlessly by 2015.
“We are not saying government should give subvention to stations.
“It should be a loan with a generous repayment arrangement so that our members can have access to funds to address all grey areas ahead of the switch over date,’’ Jijiwa said.
The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Folashade Esan, commended NBC for the initiative to meet with stakeholders.
He urged all players in the broadcast sector to endeavour to adopt new trends in technology to ensure that the transition was not only be hitch-free but beneficial to all broadcast audiences.
Sen. Bello Tukur, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, commended NBC, BON and other stakeholders for their efforts in pushing the process of digitalisation.
He assured that the National Assembly would support all the activities and programmes that would culminate in a successful transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
In the same vein, Mr. Victor Oghene, the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Information, said the house would support any move to give legislative backing to the digitalisation.
Even before the 2015 deadline for digitalisation, the NBC director-general said the commission planned to train broadcasters of media houses.
“We begun an assessment since I joined the commission almost ten months ago; we have an audit of all the broadcasters; qualifications of on air people, the GMs, we have that audit and we have identified certain levels of training that is required.
“For example, in the on air training, we have series of training programmes planned from this year; we have noticed a trend where broadcasting houses now rely on social media for news.
“Social media cannot be news; somebody will go on air and say I heard on Facebook; it is like you are elevating rumour; so, we are very concerned about that.
“ We have written series of advisories to broadcast organisations, but we feel that beyond the advisories, we need to bring them together and train them.
“We are not saying social media is not important, honestly you cannot run away from it these days, but there is professional way to employ it in your work,’’ Mba said.
He said that broadcasting in Nigeria had gone beyond the stage of nurturing as it had come of age.
According to him, broadcasters will henceforth be held responsible when they breach the code, adding that the forthcoming training would also focus on the code, ahead of the 2015 elections.
“We will make sure that people who will be on air during the election period pass the code proficiency test, to ensure they know what is in the code.’’
Mba said that NBC would sanction radio stations that deny opposition access, noting that the issue of denying opposition access has become a very serious issue.
“I can tell you that if you deny a group especially during this election period, for the time you deny them, we will also deny you being on air; this is something I have been communicating very strongly to all the radio stations, especially in the states.
“In the practice of democracy, we need to learn; we need to adhere to simple common civilised way of doing business.
“But to be honest, we are working towards making example of one or two radio stations,’’ he emphasised.
Stakeholders want the NBC to ensure the realisation of the 2015 target for switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting.
They also want the Federal Government to listen to the appeal of BON and approve soft loans for media houses for the switch over project.