Second phase roll out of digital switch over begins on April 29, says Minister

Second phase roll out of digital switch over begins on April 29, says Minister
Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has announced that the second phase roll-out of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) would begin on April 29 in Lagos state.

The minister made the disclosure in Abuja, on Tuesday, at an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation and the 13-Member Ministerial Task Force on the DSO project.

The minister said: “We are kickstarting the new roll out in Lagos State on April 29, while Kano on June 3, Rivers on July 8. We will then follow up with Yobe on July 15 and Gombe on Aug 12.

“To date, we have rolled out the DSO in five states and Abuja”.

He added that the DSO had gone live in the Federal Capital Territory, Kwara, Kaduna Enugu and Osun states.

Mohammed said the ministry considered the DSO as one of its priority projects, given its potential to create jobs, bring governance closer to the people, through better access to information, provide quality programming to Nigeria’s estimated 24 million television households, with high fidelity pictures and sound.

“Without mincing words, let me say straight away that for us, the DSO is about stimulating local content and empowering platform owners,” he said.

He said the manufacturing of Set Top Boxes or decoders alone, was capable of creating 50,000 jobs, while television production could create an additional 200,000 jobs .

“Film production can generate 350 to 400,000 jobs, distribution, which entails supplying the market with Set Top Boxes, TVs and dongles for the Internet, will require at least 100,000 wholesalers.

“Advertising can create a further 50,000 jobs,” the minister said.

He said the ministry had taken some steps to create the enabling environment for the DSO to succeed, for local content to thrive, for indigenous producers to be more engaged and for the local advertising market to grow.

Mohammed also revealed that the federal government had carried out an unprecedented reform of the broadcasting industry, given the nexus between the reforms and success of the DSO.

“The amendments were necessitated by the need to boost the local content in Nigeria, curb anti competitive and monopolistic tendencies and boost advertising revenues.

“We have amended the code to curb monopoly and exclusivity of programme content in order to create room for the industry to grow.

“For example, the pay TV sector of the broadcast Industry had been controlled by foreign interests, while indigenous efforts to compete have been frustrated or weakened by the established control of the big monopolies.

“It will interest you to know that to date, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has licensed over 30 Nigerian pay TV companies, but only one, is currently struggling to break through; this is not acceptable,” he said.

The minister added that the monopolies excluded many Nigerians from enjoying, or having access to premium content, especially in the area of sports and movies.

“With the amendment to the code, anyone owning any sports rights must make such available to other parties in Nigeria, who may be interested in acquiring these rights.

“We have amended the Code to stimulate growth in the advertising industry. Agencies and advertisers now have to offset all outstanding invoices within 60 days related to advert placement and the barring of carriage of adverts of defaulters.

“This will significantly address the diversion of advert revenue to the wrong hands, address lack of accountability in the industry, and ensure significant empowerment in terms of funding for content producers and channel owners in the Nigerian media industry.

“Also, under the new amendment, for a programme to qualify as local content, it must be authored, directed and produced by a Nigerian.

“In addition, at least 75 per cent of the leading actors and major supporting cast must be Nigerians, a minimum of 75 per cent of its programme expenses and 75 per cent of post-production expenses paid for services provided by Nigerians or Nigerian companies.

“This initiative will considerably develop the skills, expertise and industry of the local content market. This is a redefinition of the old regulation that 60 percent of all programmed aired during prime time must be local content.

“As part of efforts to make the DSO proposition viable. I have directed GoTV and StarTimes to stop self carriage by the end of June 2021, and migrate to either Integrated Television Service (ITS) or Pinnacle Communication, which are the approved signal distributors in the country.

“To stimulate growth and investment in the advertising sector, the code was further amended to the effect that all television and radio advertisements airing on all broadcast platforms, pertaining to products and services manufactured, grown, processed, developed, created and originating from Nigeria, shall be wholly produced in Nigeria”.

According to him, bills to amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) Act had been proposed to concretise reforms in the broadcasting and advertising sectors.

He, therefore, appealed to the Senators to fast-track deliberations on the bills seeking to amend the Acts.

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