Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja inaugurated the Digital Switchover Project from Analog transmission in broadcasting to Digital Transmission in the country.
He described the event as historic and said that it would transmit 30 channels even in this first phase.
The President said he was happy with the achievement, saying that viewers in the pilot scheme would be able to enjoy 15 free channels covering news, sports, music and business.
Buhari was represented at the event by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Osibanjo, who read the President’s prepared speech, quoted Buhari as saying that he was happy that local industry was already experiencing a boost from the new vista in digital economy, with several indigenous companies now manufacturing Set-Top-Boxes.
He said that he was told that many of the Set-Top-Boxes being used for the Abuja switchover were produced in Nigeria.
Buhari added he was also pleased to note that the signal distributor for the Abuja switchover, Pinnacle Communications, “is a wholly owned Nigerian firm,” which he said had invested considerably in transmission services.
He said, “The significance of this event cannot be lost on the world as the digital switchover becomes a reality in the capital city of Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
“Even if only for the huge local and international opportunities for broadcast, media, ICT, entertainment and education, we are right to say that we stand at the threshold of exciting times for job creation, entertainment and in general, local and international commerce.”
Buhari said the successful inauguration of the pilot scheme in Jos in April had clearly demonstrated the gains of digital switchover.
Already, he said he had been told that viewers in the pilot would be able to enjoy 15 free channels covering news, sports, music and business.
He recalled what he said at the presentation of the budget to the National Assembly last week that strong partnerships with the private sector was a defining strategy of his government’s economic plan.
Buhari said technology was now transforming the lives of Nigerians and that their livelihoods daily were now new.
The President said for some of those born over three decades ago, it was even more amazing.
He said, “The pioneering TV signals of the Western Region of Nigeria TV (the first in Africa then) was a wonder, then we thought black and white TV was the end of change in TV broadcasting until coloured TV came.
“We didn’t know that video and audio quality could get so close to real life encounters until the digital revolution and now high definition TV. What next?
“But perhaps more important are the doors opened by digital transition. First is that it would liberalise access to and increase the versatility of media information.
“Interactive programming, two-way data exchanges, mobile reception of video, Internet and multimedia data will open up. The opportunities that this will provide are only limited by the imagination.
“Advertising, formal education, sales and marketing are obvious low hanging fruits.”
The President added that Nigerian artistes and entrepreneurs in music, entertainment and filmmaking would also be important pillars in government’s diversification plans.
Digitisation, he said, would create jobs in the area of content and software development, and provide the platform for film producers and musicians to release their productions directly to households.
He said this would substantially cut off piracy.
The President restated his government committed to meeting the June 2017 deadline for the switchover in the West African sub-region and also to the roll-out of the DSO in all the states of the federation.
He, therefore, appealed to states and local governments to be actively involved in the project because of its obvious advantages to Nigerians.
He congratulated the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu; Pinnacle Communications and Messerschmitt SMK for what he described as a world-class performance on the switchover.
In his address, Mohammed commended the commitment of the President to ensuring that Nigeria meet up with the deadline of the switchover.
He said the commitment of the President was responsible for the success of the occasion.
Mohammed said there were a number of initiatives that his ministry was focusing on in order to achieve a credible and effective development of the nation’s TV and production industries, and to successfully develop the digital economy.
Part of them, according to him, are that the “Consumer Proposition that is all encompassing which most Nigerians have never had access to 30 free digital channels; free and easy access to government and public information through a touch of the remote control; current affairs and news available through the middleware on the boxes; and a world-class electronic programme guide that will make television viewing an unbeatable experience.”
He also listed the creation of tens of thousands of jobs through technical, production and manufacturing opportunities and Set-Top Box assembling and ultimately manufacturing is an irreversible mandate by the government to the industry.
Mohammed said the country expected this to extend very quickly to local Smart TV and Tablet manufacturing.
“With our strong consumer base, we can quickly become the supplier of these equipment to the whole of West Africa. As we speak, jobs are already being created as we engage engineers, technicians, retailers, distributors and marketers, among others,” he added.
He also told the audience that the Electronic Programme Guide would also be a platform for application developers to create products that would make life easier for the home consumers, thereby creating and promoting an industry of developers that would operate in both the television and telecoms industries.
He said government was going to forbid all forms of monopoly so that all Nigerians could get access to all types of content without having to expend money on multiple devices.
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