FULL SPEECH OF THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AT THE 2016 AFRICAST

It is indeed an honor for me to welcome you to this edition of AFRICAST 2016. The Federal Government is particularly delighted that this is coming from the background of our efforts to transit from analog to digital broadcasting.

AFRICAST was conceived as a forum for examining the challenges posed to broadcasting by the multi-faceted socio-economic-politics, cultural, technological and developmental imperatives of our continent

This is the 11th edition of this International conference for African Broadcasters, which has gradually but steadily assumed its own space in the global broadcasting landscape. While AFRICAST 2014, held here in Abuja, Nigeria, had as its theme:Digital Broadcast Content: Production, Sourcing and Delivery, the theme of this year’s edition is Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting: Financing Quality Content.

AFRICAST provides a platform for stakeholders in Africa’s broadcasting scene to converge and exchange ideas on content creation and explore the possibilities offered by the new and emerging technology. This is why technology and broadcast content have remained critical issues at the various editions of AFRICAST. The Digitization of the technology of broadcasting is rapidly changing broadcasting and offering fresh opportunities – Broadcasters are embracing platforms for diverse content and now require media tools with continuous access to content throughout their business. Content producers are delivering their program content to ever more devices. The evolution of new broadcast platforms is threatening traditional broadcast platforms and channels. The reality though is that the motivation apparently is that as broadcasters engage new platforms, the market opportunities are increasing, providing new revenue streams.

The regulators of broadcasting in Africa must begin to envisage and appropriate the larger implications of the roll out of these platforms. Africa must ensure that our media continues to serve its peoples in terms of security, economic well-being, and technological advancement. We need to be literate in the emerging technological platforms and understand them before we can apply them.

Here in Nigeria, broadcasting was deregulated in 1992 to allow private initiative in the industry, and this has led to a massive growth in the broadcast industry. The need for more content, especially, and technical equipment has been on the increase

The digitization of broadcasting offers Nigeria a lot of opportunities. The benefits are multifaceted and very far-reaching – in the areas of economics, politics, education, entertainment, science and technology and several other ways. Many have said that the impact of digitization on television will be revolutionary and I cannot agree less. With digitization, the TV industry in Nigeria will be able to raise over I billion dollars in one year. Also, digitization will increase the number of the current 450 TV stations in Nigeria.

The Federal government’s idea of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is one in which there is free digital TV service called FreeTV – based on Freeview rather than requiring pay TV subscriptions. Therefore, the government is providing support to ensure that the FreeTV Set–Top-Boxes, also called decoders, are affordable at a retail price of N1,500 ($7.50)

The advantages are enormous:
i) Nigerian viewers will get a great free TV service with up to 30 channels laden with sports, news, documentaries and other program types for only N1500.

  1. ii) Viewers should also be able to receive all pay-TV content through one STB, if they so desire.

iii) Governments (Federal, State and local) will have an information outlet to every home through the interactive news and information service.

  1. iv) Nollywood will have a safe and profitable distribution channel direct to 24 million TV homes through the Set-Top Boxes with no piracy risk.
    This will generate $250m per annum of extra income for Nollywood.
  2. v) As I said earlier, the broadcasting industry and digital economy will grow by $1 bn per annum through increases in advertising, Nollywood
    income and value added services. It will offer uncountable opportunities for jobs especially for young Nigerians who form the majority of the
    demographics in the broadcast industry and other ancillary industries.
  3. vi) The prevention of STB imports will enable Nigerian STB manufacturers to build a thriving industry.

vii) The Nigerian Government can potentially raise a digital dividend of $1 billion from the sale of spectrum, thereby ensuring that the whole DSO
program is self-funding.

viii) And a free press and open democracy underpinned by local content channels, especially, and some international channels guaranteed.

So far, the Federal Government has shown commitment to meeting the new deadline of June 2017 for the whole country to transit from analog to digital broadcasting. To achieve this, it has done the following:

– A total of thirteen (13) local Set-Top-Box manufacturers have been authorized by the Commission to manufacture the STBs for the Digital
Switchover in Nigeria. The Set-Top-Box manufacturing companies are already providing jobs for young Nigerians and offering an opportunity for
technical and engineering skills acquisition. Only last week, I visited one of the manufacturing plants at Idu in Abuja and the plant already
has a number of young Nigerians working there.

– In order to ensure that the signals of various channel owners are compressed into multiplexes and well packaged before transmission to
consumers, and to protect the boxes from hacking and piracy, the Federal Government engaged the middleware operator In view Nigeria limited.

– Another indigenous company, Cable Channels Nigeria Limited (CCNL), is managing the marketing and aggregation of the channels on behalf of the
content owners and the signal distributors

– In line with the DSO White Paper, which makes a provision for the reservation of a license for an independent signal distribution operator to
be created out of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), a company was known as Independent Television Services (ITS) Limited has been
created.

– The second company, which emerged through an expression of interest and evaluation of bids, was Pinnacle Communications Limited. Last week, I
also paid a visit to the site of Pinnacle in Abuja, and we are glad about the level of investment and commitment to the actualization of the
DSO in Abuja by the end of the year.

– These transmission companies will no doubt engage young Nigerian engineers, thus creating job opportunities for thousands of Nigerian
engineers. This is in line with our deliberate regulatory policy measures to indigenize the entire management and operational structure of the
DSO for the future development of the Nigerian broadcast industry.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, on the 30th of April 2016, history was made in Jos, the capital of Plateau state in Northern Nigeria, with the launch of the pilot scheme of the DSO. Today, Jos residents who benefitted from the pilot scheme enjoy over 15 free television channels, covering news, sports, business, music, etc. The Free Television services also come with the interactive capability and government information portal. This is very significant in this era of information and knowledge, where the right of every citizen to information, access to a pluralism of media choices and diversity of content cannot be over-emphasized.

To encourage social inclusiveness, the government also consciously provided about 200,000 free STBs for the pilot scheme, while the price of the box was fixed at 1,500 Naira each. With the successful take-off of the pilot scheme, the Federal Government has now concluded plans to roll out in Abuja before the end of this year.

To achieve this, Pinnacle Communications, an indigenous Broadcast manufacturing company, has been given the task to provide transmission service for over 30 channels that will be available to viewers in Abuja. From Abuja, it is our expectation that the roll-out to other states in Nigeria will be done in phases, until we are able to achieve the set date of June 2017.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, once again, I welcome you to AFRICAST 2016, where all the issues I have been discussing and much more will form the points of discourse and engagement.

I thank you all for your kind attention