Despite Government’s Lack of Readiness, BON Calls for Ban on Importation of Analogue TV Sets

Balarabe Shehu Ilelah

Despite the  Federal Government’s lack of readiness to fully switch on to digital television broadcasting, the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) has called on the Federal Government to ban the importation of analogue television sets as part of the measures to fast track the switch over to digital broadcasting in Nigeria.

The call was made in a communique issued at the end of the meeting of the CWC of BON which held in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory on August 4, 2021.

The communique titled “Outcome of the Central Working Committee of Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria Held on Wednesday, August 4, 2021” and jointly signed by its Chairman, Sa’a Ibrahim, and Executive Secretary, Yemisi Bambose, disclosed the meeting holistically reviewed the process of digitisation, the formation of the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters, audience measurement, National Broadcasting Commission licence rates and other industry matters.

The BON CWC called for “a complete review of the digitization process specifically in the area of legal framework as the only document available remains the government white paper of 2012, which does not capture contemporary technological development and its deficient in addressing decade long issues that have emerged since its issuance.”

The CWC also came to the conclusion that the process of establishing the Society of Nigerian Broadcasters should begin immediately with a committee to work on modalities for its take-off.

It complained that it finds the collection of Digital Access Fee complicated and illegal and therefore, called for the immediate stoppage of its collection, while the amount so far collected should be accounted for.

It proposed the following as annual broadcast license fees pending the final migration from analogue to digital platform: National DTT, N20m; Regional, N10m; Abuja/Lagos/Kano and Port Harcourt, N15m; State DTT, N500,000.

Calling on the Federal Government to ban importation of analogue TV sets into the country it also recommended that the cost of set-top boxes should be made affordable.

It called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to, as a matter of urgency, bring together all critical stakeholders in broadcast industry to take a total review of the entire digital switchover process.

On the directives given to broadcast stations regarding reportage insurgence and banditry, it said: “While appreciating the concerns of NBC as regulator, BON believes there should be more interface with practitioners than issuing directives that are interpreted as moves to gag the industry.”

Despite the phased switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting by the NBC in Nigeria, the government seems unprepared for the switchover as users of the digital broadcasting platform, FreeTV, have expressed displeasure over its service, including their inability to contact customer service, removal of some choice and indigenous movie channels from advertise bouquet, and lack of children-focused channels.

FreeTV claims on its website that it covers the existing local, national, and selected international free-to-air channels, “delivering Nigerian digital incentive channels with improved signal reception and picture quality directly to homes via set-top boxes (decoders).”