By Magnus Eze
History was made on December 22, 2016, on the sprawling hills of Mpape, Abuja, where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo symbolically switched on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to digital television broadcasting from analogue at the Pinnacle Broadcast Centre.
The Vice President stated that the significance of the event was not lost on the world, as the digital switch-over became a reality in the capital city of Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, considering the huge local and international opportunities for broadcast media, ICT, entertainment and education: “We are right to say that we stand at the threshold of exciting times for job creation, entertainment and, in general, local and international commerce.”
Osinbajo praised the signal distributor for the Abuja switchover for investing considerably in transmission services that would broadcast 30 channels in the first phase.
He also reiterated government’s commitment to strong partnerships with the private sector, adding that Nigerian artistes and entrepreneurs in music, entertainment and filmmaking would be important pillars in the nation’s diversification plans.
“Digitisation will create jobs in the area of content and software development; provide the platform for film producers and musicians to release their productions directly to households. This will, of course, substantially cut off piracy,” he said.
The Vice President also poured encomiums on the indigenous companies manufacturing set-top boxes, and welcomed residents of the FCT to the world of digital broadcasting.
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while enumerating the advantages of digital broadcasting, disclosed that over 26,000 direct jobs would be created in the manufacture set-top boxes.
He stressed that the set-top box assembling and ultimately manufacturing process in Nigeria was an irreversible mandate by government to the industry, adding that the expectation was for this to extend quickly to local smart TV and tablet manufacturing.
Aside from growing the TV advertising market by $400 million annually through audience measurement, the minister stated that digital switchover would also create a N100 billion per annum FreeTV distribution network for Nollywood.
Director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, in setting the tempo for the ceremony, said the switch-over would assist in deepening the democratic process in Nigeria.
He disclosed that the NBC would create a Digital Access Fund where the N1,000 annual TV licence fee paid by each TV owner would be deposited.
Harvest of complaints
With great expectations, Abuja residents had thronged the venue of the inauguration and other distribution channels to purchase the set-top boxes.
Unfortunately, not a few of them were left disappointed shortly after installing the device. While some residents claimed that the devices did not work after installation, some others said theirs worked for days and packed up. The complaints have mounted steadily, even as teething problems were not ruled out from the inception.
Daily Sun gathered that those who wanted to enjoy the FreeTV during the Yuletide could not do so and they were left to their fate because the help line of the NBC was inactive.
One of such compliants came from Mrs. Nwakanma Umeh, a resident of Lugbe Federal Housing Estate, who said that her set-top box worked perfectly for three days before it stopped.
Another resident, Mr. Victor Ndagi, told our reporter that his set-top box did not work from the outset.
When asked whether he had complained to the seller of the product, Ndagi said he was not educated by the vendor on how to complain, if they were any issues, raising concerns of adequate enlightenment of residents.
However, the NBC had anticipated such hitches in the activation of some of the set-top boxes, hence the commission, on its Facebook page, urged viewers to send a short message service (SMS) using their decoder’s unique identity number to 09099966669, adding that it regretted any inconvenience to the viewers.
The signal distributor, Pinnacle Communications, on Sunday, said that the company was not responsible for the hitches experienced by viewers in Abuja in trying to activate their set-top boxes.
A statement by its media consultant, Mr. Jerry Enyeh, explained that it Pinnacle was not involved in the production of set-top boxes, since its job was signal transmission, which has “remained crystal clear with high definition.”
“Pinnacle Communications was quite visible in the process that culminated to DSO from analogue to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting in Abuja on account of being a major player in the setting up of the Abuja platform at the Pinnacle Broadcast Centre, Abuja, but we are not in charge of the set-top boxes that experienced activation problems,” the statement said.
Attempts to ascertain the actual manufacturer of the malfunctioning set-top boxes for reaction were fruitless, but an NBC official disclosed that these were part of the initial challenges that would be addressed with time.