On behalf of the members of the Board of Management (BOM) and staff of the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), I want to express gratitude to the organizers of TV CONNECT AFRICA, for inviting me to participate in this year’s gathering; the 6th annual get together, in this beautiful African city. I want to especially mention Mister Chris Read, whose persistence ensured that I could not find any excuse to miss this year’s event. The last time that I visited this city was in 2007. In this same Convention Centre, I had attended the World Editors’ Forum, and I have retained very fond memories of the excellent atmosphere within which we met as well as the hospitality of the people of Cape Town. It is the nature of the trajectory of human life, that my professional life, commenced thirty-nine years ago, in February 1977 in Nigerian radio broadcasting; I eventually worked for five national and international radio stations; I was pioneer GM of Television in a Nigerian state, before I went to work as Editor, Chairman of the Editorial Board and columnist in three Nigerian newspapers. This professional life came full circle, when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed me as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), on May 25th, 2016.
On April 30, 2016, about a month before my appointment, Nigeria finally commenced its journey to a Digital Switch Over (DSO), with the launch of a pilot scheme in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau state. The Jos scheme saw commencement of implementation of the decision taken by the Nigerian government within the context of international agreements and which had been postponed twice previously, in the past. The Jos pilot saw the distribution of 240, 000 Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) to viewers in the city carefully chosen for its place in the evolution of television in Nigeria. It was in Jos that Nigeria began the introduction of colour television in the 1970s. The Nigerian DSO project was chosen to be Free-to-View rather than Free-to-Air, with the strategic reason to ENCRYPT all content to protect our local content against piracy and also avoid grey import of STB, as one of our goals through the switch over is to create a local manufacturing industry. For that purpose, we also licensed national STB manufacturers. In addition, our STB was designed to have Information Services, which allowed the Nigerian Government to push information to the Nigerian people. These include educational, health and social mobilization messages. By plugging a USB memory stick in one of the two USB ports of the STB, it enables the push of Video-On-Demand (VOD) service, which is of tremendous significance to the Nigerian film industry, known all over the world today as NOLLYWOOD. The remaining USB port would be available for connecting a WIFI Dongle or a 3G Dongle for IP Interactivity, delivering OTT services to Nigerian homes. And as part of the Jos Pilot Scheme, we delivered 15 very high quality television channels to 240, 000 television homes, which means the availability of these services to 1.4million viewers. In the six months of the Jos Pilot Scheme, we have experienced some technical difficulties, including moments during the rainy season, when we had difficulties with satellite failure; or other transmission-related problems as well as the inability of some of the television stations to remain on air. On balance though, the Jos Pilot has been a success and it showed us the possibilities of the DSO process and the associated technical challenges.
We were emboldened by what we have learnt in Jos to take the decision that our Federal Capital City, Abuja, would be the next place for the DSO. That will take place during the second week of December, 2016. What will take place in Abuja will not be a pilot, but the commencement of the nation-wide switch off of all analogue transmissions. In Abuja, our Second National Signal Distributor, Pinnacle Communications Limited, were mandated to and have installed the most up-to-date transmission system, which is already being tested as I speak here. In Abuja, we shall be providing THIRTY channels to our viewers. These include local, regional and national television channels. Abuja was consciously chosen in order to assist the Nigerian political leadership to get a more nuanced understanding of the Digital Switch Over, so as to better appreciate the enormity of the challenge of completing the switchover in a big country like ours, by the date we have committed ourselves to, June 2017. It is going to be a huge logistical, technical and financial challenge for us. But I am an incurable optimist, and in my lifetime, I have seen Nigeria conclude many national campaigns successfully. I believe that we would also successfully conclude the Digital Switch Over (DSO), by June 2017. We cannot afford to fail and we will not fail!
Let me add that for Nigeria, the Digital Switch Over (DSO), is not just a technical feat, profound as that might be; or a mere opportunity to watch television in a new way. It is a strategic national imperative, which is located within a vision enunciated by President Muhammadu Buhari, to explore the exciting possibilities of a national digital economy in Nigeria. We envisage that the digital switch over will open up channels of creating new jobs and several related opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming population of young people. Some of the most talented young Africans in media, culture and entertainment work from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Today, Nigeria’s film industry, better known as NOLLYWOOD, has become the third largest in the world; in the same manner that Nigerian music has become an important part of contemporary pop music culture. The major international artists now find it imperative to collaborate with Nigerian artistes in a renewed effort to reach the African audience which has become increasingly younger and is growing on a diet of very popular Nigerian music. Nigeria’s population, as of yesterday night (Monday night), was 188, 823, 956 people. Nigeria’s median age is 18 years. Nigeria is the seventh most populated country on earth, with 2.48% of the world’s population living in our country. 48.1% of that population lives in the urban areas of our country, and 75% of that huge population is under the age of 35!
The Nigerian Digital Switch Over has an imperative of ensuring that 70% of ALL programs on television would be LOCAL CONTENT, from June 2016. We want to provide a platform for our young directors, producers, scriptwriters, cameramen, and the entire value chain of television broadcasting, to be employed and to creatively express themselves in the digital broadcasting ecosystem, in a revolutionary endeavor that is technical and artistic, and one that will take the African continent by storm. This the process that Nigeria hopes to complete by June 2017. It is this process that the National Broadcasting commission (NBC) that I head, is championing at the moment.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR ATTENTION.