Many Nigerian homes have television sets, but not many of them are compliant with digital migration. Lack of technology – intensive system, uncertain power supply, a simple lack of money and complex systematic social project have locked several homes out of the global village called digital broadcast.

The existing digital television platforms are all striving to change all of that with a simplified, robust and affordable pay TV aimed at emerging markets across Africa. Some have designed models that are aimed at realising the digitalisation of broadcasting and TV in Africa.

Findings by The PUNCH have shown that over one year after the expiration of the deadline set for the switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial television, about 31 million television sets in homes in Nigeria are still unconnected

The June 17, 2015 deadline for the switching off of analogue television broadcasting in the Ultra High Frequency band was set by the International Telecommunications Union member-states at the Regional Radio Communication Conference in 2006.

Nigeria is a signatory to the GE06 regional agreement.

Findings showed that several countries, which were parties to the GE06 agreement, and others that were not, had switched over to digital terrestrial television.

However, some countries have yet to make the transition. .

The ITU gave availability of funds as one of the conditions for switching over. Nigeria has asked for an extension, with a new focus on December 2017.

However, with just 17 months to the December 2017 extension  requested by the Federal Government, findings have shown that about 31 million homes are still unconnected.

The satellite provider, SES, told our correspondent on Friday that it had reached only 2.81 million out of a total 33.9 million homes in Nigeria, leaving a shortfall of about 31 million homes unreached.

The firm said it came about the statistics after its first Satellite Monitor study in the Nigerian market, “which provides insight into the important role SES plays in the growth of the satellite television reach in the country.”

“The study highlights that SES reaches 2.81 million TV homes across the country, of which 1.69 million are reached directly by SES satellites, while 1.12 million cable TV homes are fed indirectly by the SES fleet,” the General Manager, North, West and Central Africa at SES, Eric Lecocq, said.

He said, “In total, there are 33.9 million TV homes in Nigeria, with 8.98 million of them being served by satellites directly and the rest by terrestrial and cable networks.

“The SES has increased their technical reach in sub-Saharan Africa from one million TV households in 2013 to eight million TV households by the end of 2015. The technical reach of 1.69 million TV households in Nigeria contributes to this increase.”

The President, StarTimes Group, Mr. Pang Xinxing, however, told our correspondent that the company was set to collaborate and encourage African member states of ITU to meet the new deadline of 2020 given by the world body to realise broadcasting and TV digitalisation.

To him, the adoption of the Private-Public Partnership model was the solution to crossing all hurdles before the initiative. On the part of StarTimes, he disclosed that it was set to roll out several packages to ease the compliance of African nations, especially Nigeria.

“Our corporate responsibility programme is aimed at subsidising our STB and providing each family who has TV set with an offer of $10. We will also provide basic programme package of more than 30 channels at $3 monthly fee with free STBs for government-designated households; providing digital TV programmes of national TV station for free to achieve universal digital television service,” Xinxing said.

StarTimes will establish a joint venture with local partners designated by the government and fulfil the mission of enabling every African family to have access to afford and watch good digital TV and enjoy the beauty of digital TV,” he said.

The StarTimes boss was quick to add that African governments also had roles to play in the PPP initiative. Establishing a brand new digital TV industry by attracting investment, technology, management, talents and training resources, to him, were government’s responsibilities.

“Realising nationwide digitalisation, flourishing broadcasting, creating job opportunities, improving the national quality and creating a more friendly business environment is the function of strong partnership among governments and business owners across the world,” he said.

For the national TV stations across the continent, Xinxing charged them with realising digitalisation of shooting, recording, editing and enhancing programme-making capability and quality if they were determined to cross the hurdle.

That is not all. Using the existing structure across board, he said that national broadcasters could have shares in the JV company as they could efficiently use their assets and have dividends from the JV.

“A two-day seminar we organised on the issue provided an important platform for delegates from various countries to share their experiences and suggestions on the promotion of digital migration in Africa. I believe the outcomes of this event will definitely contribute to the advancement of digital broadcasting for our continent.

“The next step is to think how to implement those suggestions brought up at the seminar. I am optimistic that the President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, will fully pay attention to those suggestions,” the Chairman, High Communications Commission of Guinea, Ms. Martine Conde, said.

The Councillor of the Information Department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mr Zhao Shiren, stated that the China-Africa relationship had reached a new dimension, as helping in the transition from analogue to digital would further boost their cooperation.

He disclosed that Africa lacked the infrastructure, human resources capacity, information society building, security, TV migration that were all useful for any nation’s development.

He said, “But with the support of StarTimes, which is now seen as carrying China’s public diplomacy, that will be a thing of the past.”

Commenting on the development, the Public Relations Manager, StarTimes, NTA Star-TV Network, Mr. Israel Bolaji, stated that digital TV was for all; “and as such, it should be affordable to all Nigerians.”

Bolaji said, “The increase in the quality of both the decoder and the channels is incomparable. It was done in a bid to continue to satisfy Nigerians.

“We are working hard and smart to prepare Nigerians towards digital migration by offering our customers affordable bundle that makes a convenient switchover from analogue to digital television and promote inspirational television experience that creates values,” he said

He said, “With about eight million subscribers, the StarTimes Group has grown to be the fastest-growing and the most influential digital TV operator in Africa as we seek harmony and win-win outcomes and regard fulfilment of social responsibility as its obligation.”

Meanwhile, Lecocq said that SES was committed to helping economic and sustainable growth in Nigeria and accelerating the digital switchover process.

He said, “We aim to connect the entire Nigerian population with our satellites, by developing the broadcasting landscape in partnership with our local partners and in close coordination with broadcasters.

“We conducted the study because we saw a gap and a need for such information to be available and easily accessible in the country.”

According to him, the findings provide credible industry statistics on the market that can be used by other industry players to further understand the broadcasting landscape and the role of satellite infrastructure.

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