FG Pushes For Private-Sector-Driven Digital Switch Over

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

The Federal Government has said it plans to settle outstanding debts in the Digital Switch Over (DSO) rollout; stop subsidies, either of set-top boxes or Signal carriage and transit to a private-sector-driven enterprise for the digital migration process to be sustainable.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed this on August 25, 2020 in Abuja at the “Digiteam” Meeting to foster dialogue among the various stakeholders in the DSO architecture.

The meeting was attended by representatives of National Broadcasting Commission, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, Set-Top Boxes Manufacturers, and broadcast stations, among others.

Alhaji Mohammed disclosed during the meeting that the government is looking for money to pay outstanding debts and restart the DSO roll out, adding the process will be fully private sector driven and self-sustaining.

He said: “On our part, we have made tremendous progress in our efforts to get the much-needed funds for the DSO process, in particular, to pay outstanding debts that will ginger stakeholders to resume the rollout and bring the massive benefits of the DSO to Nigerians.”

He disclosed that the Ministry was putting finishing touches to a memo it plans to send to the Federal Executive Council as part of its relentless efforts to secure the funds to re-start the process and that he was very optimistic that the Ministry’s efforts will pay off soon adding, “The Analogue to Digital Switch Over must not be delayed any longer than necessary.”

Following the successful launch of the DSO in April 2016 in Jos, Plateau state, the federal government announced the reduction of the price of set-top boxes from the official N10,000 to N1,500 to get it across to all Nigerians. About 200,000 boxes were also given out for the pilot phase free of charge. Similarly, the Plateau Government also announced subsidy plans for its citizens and promised to distribute 300,000 boxes to them.

The Minister noted that moving ahead with the DSO was critical to the post-COVID prosperity of the Creative Industry and that was why the government has taken it as a priority.

He recalled the enthusiasm that greeted the launch of the DSO in Jos, noting that the process was stalled due to many factors but mainly lack fund.

Recalling the DSO rollout process, the Minister said “After the launch of the pilot phase in Jos, the launch train moved fairly quickly to Abuja on Dec. 22, 2016, then to Ilorin, Kwara State, on Dec. 20, 2017, Kaduna two days later on Dec. 22 2017.

“We then proceeded to Enugu on Feb. 12, 2018, and finally to Osogbo, Osun State, on Feb. 23 2018.

“Over two years later, we have not launched the DSO in any state, even when we have 31 more states to cover!”

To complement the DSO rollout resumption processes, the minister said the government has started the process of implementing Audience Measurement, which will go a long way in driving advertising spend to the platform.

AlhajiMohammed charged stakeholders at the meeting to come up with a strategic plan for a resumed rollout, with an expressed commitment to continue with the process until every state has been covered.

The bottom line, he said, is that the nation needs to think out of the box if it is to complete this process, noting that Nigerians have waited far too long to enjoy the benefits of digital television.

He promised that his Ministry will listen to all stakeholders on their challenges and prospects, and together come up with a realistic timeline for the resumption of the rollout.