REMARKS BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE SIGNING OF THE MOU BETWEEN INTEGRATED TELEVISION SERVICES LIMITED (ITS) AND NTA-STAR IN ABUJA ON MONDAY 15 AUGUST, 2022
Today’s signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Integrated Television Services (ITS) and NTA-Star gives me immense joy. This is because this agreement is a game changer in our efforts to complete the Digital Switch Over (#DSObyNBC) before the tenure of this Administration ends.
- The MoU, which is in line with the Government White Paper on transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in Nigeria, lays the foundation for a working relationship between the two entities to drive the rollout of the DSO in the country. Let me commend the efforts of both ITS and NTA-Star, the National Broadcasting Commission, as well as the Ministerial Task Force on DSO for successfully midwifing this MoU.
- Despite the huge challenges we have faced on DSO since the pilot launch in Jos, Plateau State, 30 April 2016, we have managed to roll out in six other states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The states are Kwara, Kaduna, Enugu, Osun, Lagos and Kano states.
- The MoU that has just been signed will fastrack our rollout and take the DSO to a higher pedestal. That’s why I described it as a game changer. With this MoU, ITS will utilize the structures and facilities of NTA-Star, a terrestrial payTV platform, spread across the country, for signal distribution. In other words, ITS will henceforth become the signal distributor on the structure of NTA-Star. In essence, the signing of this MoU has given effect to the Whitepaper on the DSO, which bars terrestrial payTV from self-carriage in Nigeria.
- At the moment, NTA-Star has over 70 transmission sites spread across 35 states and the FCT, thereby effectively covering a large portion of this country with their signals. We will strive to cover at least 70% of the country with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) signal and then deploy Direct To Home (DTH) to provide 30% signal to areas in difficult terrains such as riverine and mountainous areas.
Also, henceforth, the Set Up Boxes (decoders) of NTA-Star will have multiple encryptions, which will enable viewers to enjoy Freeview content alongside paid content. This MoU will open the floodgates for channels to be licensed by NBC, thereby creating jobs and enhancing television experience with quality and compelling content.
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me remind us all that the decision to transition from analogue to digital television followed a treaty that was signed at the Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, 2006 to usher in ‘all-digital’ terrestrial broadcast services for
sound and television. This is aimed at creating a more equitable, just and people-centered Information Society, which would connect underserved populations and remote communities, thereby bridging the digital divide.
- The key benefits of digital television broadcasting are:
- Wider choice in TV and radio channels;
- Improved picture, e.g. HD, UHD and High-Fidelity sound
- Greater flexibility with the potential for portable and mobile reception;
- Enhanced information services including the Electronic Programming Guide or enhanced ‘teletext’ services (with enhanced graphics);
- Potential for interactivity; and
- Increased market competition and innovation thanks to the potential arrival of new entrants at different levels in the value-chain, for instance new service providers, broadcasters, etc.
- Additionally, the DSO process can enable a variety of competing service offers, improve digital service coverage even in remote places, and improve access to communication networks while acting as a catalyst for better management of spectrum resources. Due to bandwidth restrictions, analogue television only offers a small selection of programs and is therefore outmoded. The same transmission channel used to broadcast a single analogue program can carry a multiplex of up to 20 digital programmes of better quality. Thus, the DSO television platform, branded as FreeTV, provides users with over 60 digital channels, ranging from sports and music to movies and the latest headlines. Both DTT and DTH transmissions of FreeTV are readily available throughout the country.
- In addition to the broadcast services, FreeTV offers Value Added Services such as:
i) Enforcement & Collection of TV Licenses
ii) Premium PayTV channels
iii) Push Video on Demand
iv) Information Services, and
v) Audience Measurement.
- We are also in the process of putting in place a world class audience measurement regime to address the problem of under-investment in the sector, which is necessary to foster the growth of the industry, as the advertising community continues to rely on subjective factors when making decisions on the content they want, as opposed to how many viewers the content truly attracts.
- Finally, I have directed the NBC to embark on a massive, nationwide publicity campaign for the DSO project so that Nigerians can better understand the project and buy into it. Without the buy-in of Nigerians, the project will not achieve much.
- Once again, I thank all those who worked diligently to ensure the signing of this MoU, and I thank you for all your kind attention.