The Plateau State Government, working closely with National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), took a major step last Monday towards making a success of the responsibility placed on the state capital, Jos, to be the first city to achieve a shift from analogue to digital television (TV) broadcasting in Nigeria. That day, the government launched a public awareness campaign aimed at letting members of the public know what TV digitalisation means and what they will be required to do to watch programmes using their usual TV set when digital broadcasting begins.
Explaining what the awareness campaign would entail, the state Commissioner of Information & Communication, Mrs Olivia Dazyam had said at a pre-campaign launch press briefing at the NUJ Press Centre in Jos: "The essence of the flag-off is to ensure that we go into massive creation of awareness that will not leave our people in doubt as to what the cross-over to digital broadcasting entails. The flag-off ceremony would open the floodgate to massive publicity and campaign on the switch-over. We appreciate that our people need to be informed and educated on this process."
The flag-off which was held at Eliel Centre, a multi-purpose event complex in elite Rayfield, Jos, had a huge presence of the state government, the federal Ministry of Information, and the NBC. Two digital pay broadcast service providers, GOtv and StarTimes, sponsored the ceremony.
"History is being made on the Plateau again," the state governor, Da Jonah Jang said, referring to the privilege that the NBC had given the state to be the first in Nigeria to view digital broadcast beyond that offered by the GOtvs of today. Jang added, "We applaud the choice of Jos in particular and Plateau State in general as the test state for the switchover from analogue to digital television broadcast."
Jang, after announcing that he had committed N2.5 billion to equip the state-owned Plateau Radio Television Corporation (PRTV) to implement the digitalisation programme, performed the symbolical switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting on PRTV equipment mounted at the event venue for the official switchover. He was aided by the national switchover supervising minster, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who led NBC, the federal government parastatal implementing the switchover nationwide, to the occasion.
"This is the official flag-off of digital broadcasting in Nigeria, beginning from Jos," the minister explained, promising that the Federal Government was working out ways to see that Nigerians don't spend more than between N3000 and N5000 to acquire the set-top boxes that will enable them view digital TV signals via their usual TV sets.
BENEFITS OF DIGITAL TV BROADCASTING FOR VIEWERS: Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Emeka Mba, had earlier at the event and at events before Monday given basic insights to what digitalisation of TV broadcasting would mean.
He said, "There will be more opportunities, more digital channels both on the pay and free to air platforms. All over the world, the reason everyone go digital is to get more bandwidth, frequency, and more broadcasting. Digital transmission offers free to air TV stations more opportunities. More people would have more frequencies and many people can own more TV stations. So, it opens up more opportunities for media entrepreneurs."
He also has often noted that some level of digital TV broadcasting is already in the country: "There's already enough stations on pay TVs, what we are aggressively pursuing is that free to air TV transmits properly and orderly and we have more stations, more contents and more service delivery and more enhanced programming. You turn on your TV and you can get weather information, health facilities and more and these are the opportunities that digital transmission offers."
For sure, TV broadcasting technology has improved greatly with time. Digital broadcasting has come with a wide array of options with regard to methods of receiving television signals. Conventional TVs collect data through analogue waveforms to assign radio frequencies (broadcasts) to TV channels. In digital broadcast, conversely, digital data is used. The advantages of this innovation are numerous.
Basically, digital facility improves the quality of the images displayed on your TV. It auto-selects the suitable resolution for your digital TV, which allows your TV to display clearer and more detailed images; and it enables your TV to function efficiently regardless of its bandwidth capability.
Digital broadcasting similarly allows your TV set to receive TV signals through various methods, including cable connection, also known as digital cable. It equally allows reception of digital signals with the use of satellite dish.
Digital facility also allows you to record TV programs, to view at a time you choose, which means that you may never miss an episode of a TV series that you love.
IMPLICATIONS OF DIGITAL TV BROADCASTING FOR TV OWNERS: A vast number of television set owners have difficulty even understanding what technicians are talking about when they mention the term Digital Television (DTV). The word television conjures a known image but the word digital is simply too technical for an average individual to perceive. When you mention set-top box which an analogue TV set requires to receive digital signals, you confuse the individual even further.
The realization of this informed the decision jointly taken by the NBC and Plateau State government to hold the Flag-off of the Jos Pilot City Digital Switch-over, which the state information commissioner Dazyam had described as an event that would open the floodgate to massive publicity and campaign on the switch-over. "We appreciate that our people need to be informed and educated on this process," she had said, explaining further that the ceremony would not signal the switch from analogue to digital TV transmission itself, as the date for that had not been fixed, but only the start of an awareness campaign, so that people would know and embrace the process.
Both the Plateau State Government and the national digital migration arrowhead, the National Broadcasting Commission, have continually assured that television owners would not have to fling their analogue TV sets for new ones that are digital-compliant. They have repeatedly explained that all that an analogue TV set owner would need is a set-top box (STB) or set-top unit (STU), which Wikipedia describes as "an information appliance device that generally contains a TV-tuner input and displays output connects to a television set and an external source of signal, turning the source signal into content in a form that can then be displayed on the television screen or other display device."
In assuring that digitalisation would not cost too much money for individual TV set owner to access, the federal government and pioneer Plateau government say they are working out means that would ensure that set-top boxes, which would be about all a TV set owner would need to acquire, would cost more than N5000.