Peace Kanu, Abuja

African Broadcast professionals, broadcast equipment manufacturers, content providers and broadcast partners across the globe converged on Abuja, Nigeria’s capital last week to brainstorm on the 2017 digital switch-over from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting as well as discussed the challenges of funding content development.

The forum was the eleventh Biennial Conference of African Broadcasters known as: AFRICAST. The theme of the event was: Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting: Financing Quality Content. The conference attracted almost two thousand participants and exhibitors from across Africa, the US, Europe and Asia.

AFRICAST, introduced in 1996 by the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, has become a gateway to Africa’s broadcast market and a conference platform on which broadcast issues as they relate to Africa are thrashed out every two years by professionals, academics and policy makers as well as a market for manufacturers of broadcast equipment who are targeting the emerging African market.

The 2016 AFRICAST was unique in many ways. It heralded the final drive towards digital terrestrial switch-over and also provided a solid platform for stakeholders in Africa’s broadcasting scene to exchange ideas on funding content creation and exploring the possibilities offered by new and emerging technologies.

With the plan to promote local contents and digitization across the continent, Nigeria’s duty as a leader in Africa is to ensure  that seventy percent of its local content production  promotes the rich tradition and culture of its people through advertising, programming, documentaries and music.

It was another opportunity for stakeholders in the broadcast industry and beneficiaries of its contents to identify with the quest to finance qualitative local contents for maximum utilization for the desired growth and development. This would not only ensure a smooth transition to digitization but also improve service delivery in advertising as a major source of revenue for traditional broadcasting.

The 2016 AFRICAST leveraged on the commanding position of Nigeria in the area of content production to become the content market place for Africa, where producers and users of content will collaborate for mutual benefits and development.

At the end of the 2016 conference, participants agreed that budgetary allocations for technology acquisition should receive the desired attention without neglecting the funding of content production towards addressing it as the major challenge to the broadcast industry.

Participants also identified the development of compelling content, that the audience cannot resist, as key to content financing, which requires cooperation and collaboration among government and content providers across Africa.

Indeed, content plays a crucial role in the success of a digital broadcasting environment and funding must remain the abiding requirement for it to succeed and enable Africa to catch up with nations of the world that have since bridged the digital divide to their advantages.

Nigeria and indeed the entire African continent should ensure that facilities for producing compelling content and advertisements are made available locally so as not to deprive producers of the much needed revenue and opportunities within their countries.

Public broadcasters in developing countries should be adequately funded for them to be able to operate in the competitive broadcasting market of the twenty-first century.

In other parts of the world, funding comes from the government, especially through annual fees charged on receivers. In the United States for example, public broadcasters may receive some funding from both federal and state sources.

African countries should set the machinery in motion for the establishment of a content development fund to guarantee the production of qualitative local contents in the broadcast industry so as to utilize the advantages of a digitized system that will provide the needed content to meet world’s standards.

Confidence O