Mr. John Ugbe, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, has said Nigeria needs an adequate regulatory and legal framework as well as a buy-in from all stakeholders to make a successful transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting. Ugbe stated this in a keynote address delivered at the 3rd Digital Migration Summit, which held in Lagos from 22-23 August. The summit was organized by Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).
While noting that the country is a late starter on the migration journey, Ugbe said it can learn from the experiences of countries that have achieved digital migration and avoid the mistakes from previous exercises.
“Using the United Kingdom, Kenya and Rwanda as case studies, one common denominator is that they all opted to make Free-to-Air (FTA) cost-free in each country. Another key lesson learnt is that they all had adequate regulatory and legal framework in place and ensured that there was buy-in from all stakeholders. Everyone had a role to play – from making Set Top Boxes (STBs) affordable and partnering with the private sector which brought in investment,” he counselled.
Digitization, he explained, will ensure better transmission quality and make more channels available. As a result, there will be a need for compelling content.
“It is crucial to make content as engaging as possible, otherwise we will lose our audience. Compelling content is expensive to achieve as it affects cost of equipment, production and distribution, to mention a few,” he explained.
Along with digital migration, he further explained, will come a more effective use of spectrum, with a move from one analogue channel per frequency to over 20. While noting that digital migration offers many benefits, Ugbe stated that it is also accompanied by challenges.
“That there will be more channels also means that the already limited advertising revenue will shrink further. Additionally, segment boundaries will blur. The internet already enables anyone to create and distribute user generated content. There is tremendous diversification going on and this will continue in the foreseeable future,” he said.
To get around the challenges, Ugbe called for light- touch regulations that will ensure lower costs for operators.
“We will need clearly defined taxes and levies that are in tune with the current realities. Higher levies will only increase the cost of broadcasting and further impact the industry and general public.
Furthermore, Free to Air services should remain free and available to all and on all platforms to ensure universal access,” he said.
In addition, Ugbe called for public enlightenment that matches the magnitude of digital migration to create awareness and remove ambiguity.
“The objective for Digital Migration is not for people to pay for TV and as such broadcasting as a public service needs to be more vibrant. A good example of this practice is National Geographic. There are no adverts when they transmit, yet they showcase informative and educative content which we all learn from. The regulator has to work with the industry to use the least cost to achieve this. We need to adopt better models to ensure funding of public service broadcasting. We all have to be active participants on this journey,” Ugbe said.
Ugbe stated that television broadcasting in Nigeria is already digital. DStv, he explained was already digital by 1995. MultiChoice, he added, went from MMDS to Digital mobile in 2008. In 2011, it introduced GOtv, a Direct Terrestrial Terrestrial (DTT) service.
The MultiChoice boss disclosed that the company’s investment in Nigeria between 2011 and 2015 was above the $1 billion mark. Part of the investment during the four-year period was the $36 million spend on licensing fees and production of sports programmes. He equally disclosed that thecompany has invested over N15 billion in the production of local content over the last 10 years.