Following the successful launch of the pilot city digital switchover (DSO) in Jos, Plateau State this week, the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr. Emeka Mba has assured Nigerians of a smooth nationwide digital switchover by January 2015.
He told THISDAY that the success attained in the Jos pilot DSO was an indication that the planned phased switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting would also be successful, provided that the Digiteam, which is the committee charged with the responsibility of switching Nigerians from analogue to digital, remained committed.
"We have just concluded the first phase of DSO, which is the Jos pilot city switchover. The next phase is to do same in all major cities and boarder towns, followed by all state capital before the fourth phase, which is switching the rest of the country," Mba said.
Nigeria had entered into a final agreement with International Telecoms Union (ITU) to switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting by June 17, 2015, but the NBC, the broadcast regulatory agency has set a target for itself to commence nationwide switchover by January 2015, six months before the June 2015 deadline.
NBC had drawn a phased rollout plan, beginning with the pilot city switchover in Jos, and it is working hard to complete other phases on or before January 2015.
The commission was able to ride on the backbone of NTA StarTimes to accomplish the Jos pilot city switchover, having designated NTA as the national digital signal carrier for the country.
The commission promised to strengthen NTA StarTimes in other locations, where the phased rollout plans will hold. StarTimes is the digital broadcasting arm of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Speaking at the launch of the Jos pilot city switchover, Chairman, Digiteam, Mr. Edward Amana said digital broadcasting offers so much opportunity that broadcasters are yet to tap into.
"It comes in different language transmission and the viewers are able to select the language they want to listen to, apart from the variety of channels it has in its bouquet," he said.
Digital broadcasting opens a whole new era, making broadcasting to be sociably relevant. It makes television viewing more interesting and relevant. Broadcasting has gone beyond entertainment, and now deals with information gathering used to address economic situation. It is for these reasons that we are launching the pilot scheme in Jos, Amana added.
He explained that the process for licensing signal distributors that would drive digital transmission was still ongoing and that the first batch of setup boxes that will help in the conversion of digital signals for easy viewing with analogue television, will soon be ready.
Nigerians were initially afraid that they may not be able to use their analogue television by the time Nigeria goes digital by June 2015, leading to huge electronic waste of analogue television boxes, but Amana allayed such fears, insisting that the setup boxes will do the conversion that will enable Nigerians still use their old analogue television sets, even after the country goes digital by nest year.
One other area of concern is the need for Nigerians to develop local contents that will be streamed for digital viewing.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku who was at the pilot switchover launch in Jos, stressed the need for Nigerians to begin to think fast in creating local contents that will not only be educative, but also informative and entertaining, in order to avoid so much infiltration of foreign culture on the Nigerian digital channels.
Governor Jonah David Jang of Plateau State, who officially launched the pilot switchover from analogue to digital in Jos, challenged NBC on intensive awareness campaign to allay further fears from Nigerians about the planned nationwide switchover in 2015.