. Says amendment will strengthen agency’s regulatory responsibility
.Wants NBC, Information ministry to develop National Media Content Policy for the Digital TV era
Following the setting up of the Ad-hoc Committee by the House of Representatives to set a new template for the broadcast industry in the country, the committee has made far reaching recommendations that it considers will make the critical sector more sustainable and meet current and future challenges.
The committee, according to a report made available to The Daily Times among other recommendations, said: “There should be an amendment to the NBC Act to strengthen its regulatory responsibility and develop a standard regulatory documentation for digital broadcasting as contained in the White paper report; Amendments to existing legislation to incorporate Government policy recommendations on digital broadcasting in Nigeria and to legalise Digital Access Fee (DAF) and Conditional Access Fee (CAF).
“There should be an amendment to the NBC Act to strengthen its regulatory responsibility and develop a standard regulatory documentation for digital broadcasting as contained in the White paper report.
“There should be an effective collaboration between the Ministry of Information and NBC on the digital switch over process.
“NBC and the Ministry should develop the proposed National Media Content Policy for the Digital TV era, covering a media content master plan including media content fund (MCF) to fund content production. Management of the fund should be as proposed by the Ministry with necessary legal backing.
“That optimal management of Spectrum for the DSO should be ensured by the Ministry. It is equally important to confirm the total amount harvested from the sale of the spectrum by NBC and how these monies were expended.
“That Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should be involved in the activities of STB Manufacturers to ensure standard and avoid a situation where the country is turned into a dumping ground for substandard and obsolete equipment.
“That NBC should collaborate with Nigcomsat on the best way to use its facilities for the switch over to enable the country conserve foreign exchange.
“The Government should offer more incentives to STB Manufacturers to encourage local manufacturing of STBs, but not necessarily subsidy.
“That the license issued to Set Top box Manufacturers who have failed or neglected to establish manufacturing plants to engage our teeming unemployed youths and create other opportunities in pursuit of local content should be withdrawn forthwith in accordance with the terms of the license and consider licensing or replacing them with Nigerian companies who have capacity in accordance with the provisions of the White Paper.
“The Ministry and other key stakeholders should initiate effective public enlightenment programme to create awareness on the process and expectations of the digital switch over.
“That the ongoing phased/State implementation of the DSO strategy should be thoroughly supervised and monitored by the Ministry. Signal Distributors must exhibit capacity to cover at least 80% of an assigned state before being allocated or proceeding to another state.
Other recommendations by the committee include the following: “That the issue surrounding the quality of equipment purchased by one of the licenced Signal Distributors as observed during the oversight tour of the Committee, should be further investigated in order to assure Nigerians and ensure standard in line with global best practices. The actual amount paid to ITS by NBC must be ascertained for the records.
“NBC should coordinate activities of STB Manufacturers and the Content Aggregators in the manner recommended by the white paper.
“That Inview Technology should be further investigated on public procurement infractions observed during the investigation as well as status of funds generated and utilised.
The committee also recommended that the Ministry and NBC should ensure regional collaboration on DSO timelines/final switch off date and that Analogue broadcasting should not be switched off until 95% DSO coverage is achieved in the country.
Furthermore, the committee recommended “that all parties that were not contemplated by the White Paper but were somewhat brought in albeit inadvertently by the regulator in furtherance of this process should be excised in the spirit of equity and integrity of the process as well as the country in general.”
The Daily Times recalls that the House of Representatives adopted a Resolution on Tuesday, June 22, 2016 to set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the current process of digital switch over (DSO) from analogue transmission to digital terrestrial transmission in Nigeria.
The 14- member-committee, which has Hon, Sunday Marshal Katung, as the Chairman and Ipaye Abimbola, as the clerk, was mandated by the House of Representatives to, among other issues:
“Invite all the Stakeholders involved in the DSO programme with a view to ensuring that the process will meet the deadline, ensure quality and cost effective services to Nigerians.
“Investigate the sale of the harvested 700 MHz bandwidth to MTN and the concession of the GUI value added services to Inview Technologies of the United Kingdom.
“Ascertain whether the aggregators that were paid millions of Naira to supply over 20million Set top boxes (STB) were capable of meeting the deadline”.
The committee was also mandated to investigate all stakeholders involved in the DSO programme with a view to ensuring it meets deadline, guarantees quality and cost effective services to Nigerians.
It said it was also mandated to investigate the sale of the 700MHz bandwidth to MTN and the concession of the GUI to Inview Technology of UK as well as to ascertain whether the aggregators paid millions of Naira for the delivery of 20 Million boxes were capable of meeting the deadline.
The committee said its investigations covered the following relevant agencies and other players in the broadcast sector- Federal Ministries/Agencies and Private organisations and Associations involved in the digital transition programme, such as; The Ministry of Information and Culture; National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); Nigerian Communication Commission(NCC);National Television Authority (NTA);MTN Telecommunications Ltd; Radio Television And
Theatre Workers Union.( RATTAWU);Nigerian Union Journalists (NUJ);Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON);Plateau Radio and Television Corporation (PRTVC); Nigeria Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT); Nigerian Film Corporation; Digiteam Nigeria; Pinnacle Communication Ltd;Integrated Television Services; Inview Technologies Lt; Cable Channels Nig. Ltd; National Frequency Management Council (NFMC);Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON);National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA);Voice of Nigeria (VON);National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB);State Government owned Radio and Television Stations;Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN); STB Manufacturing Companies (list of companies authorized/certified to Manufacture Set Top Boxes);Gospel Digital Technology Co. Ltd;Zinox Technologies Limited; Digitune MediTechnologies Limited; TrendCorp Africa Limited;M.K. Engineering & Construction Ltd; Trefonics Engineering Ltd; Africa Decoder Company Limited; TV Enterprises;I-BOX Engineering Nig. Limited;Innoson; Communications Limited;Design Build Concept Limited; STB Manufacturing System Limited (DTH FREESAT; African Cable Television Limited.
While the Ad-hoc Committee employed various strategies to arrive at its recommendations, including analyses of memoranda submitted by stakeholders and oral presentations at the Public Hearing, as well as findings from interactive Sessions with Stakeholders, Oversight visit to STB manufacturing companies and Signal distributors, the Ad-Hoc Committee painstakingly scrutinised, among others, analyses of memoranda submitted by Stakeholders and oral presentations at the Public Hearing as well as findings from interactive sessions with Stakeholders, Oversight visit to STB manufacturing Companies and Signal distributors, it observed: “Digital switchover deadlines, guaranteeing quality and cost effective service delivery; sale of the 700 MHz Bandwidth to MTN Communication; Concession of GUI to Inview Technology of UK ; set top box manufacturing companies/plant integrity, among others.
For example on the set top box manufacturing companies/plant integrity, the Committee analysed the licenses and registration status of each stakeholder involved in the DSO process with relevant regulatory Agencies (CAC, FIRS, PENCOM, NSITF and ITF), and stated thus: “The Committee discovered that the Set Top Box (STB) strategy was a critical Platform in the DSO process. Yet the Companies were supposed to be carefully selected not licensed as recommended in the White Paper. These Companies were to be selected based on their financial and technical competence and not dependent on free Government funds; the process is supposed to be self-sustaining going by the White Paper report.”
It noted that,” NBC granted licence to each of these Companies for N50 million. However, the Commission offered some form of trade incentives to support these Companies.
Consequently, the committee, according to The Daily Times findings, concluded that, “Digital switch over is a global phenomenon and an international obligation binding on member states. The benefits are enormous. Seamless digital transition was achieved in most countries through effective collaboration among Stakeholders with necessary funding regime coined in a legislative framework for the switch over. It was a carefully planned process that struck a balance between economic interests and social needs.
“It is our considered opinion and recommendation that for the DSO process to progress successfully there must be a total reversal to and strict adherence to the Government White Paper upon which the process is predicated.
“Fortunately, Nigerian broadcasting stations will not experience any digital signal disturbance from neighbouring countries as none of the countries in the ECOWAS sub region have migrated to digital broadcasting.”
It also said that, “The Ad-Hoc Committee hereby expresses appreciation to the Leadership of the House of Representatives for the opportunity to serve.”