Mul­tiChoice Ad­vo­cates Ad­e­quate Reg­u­la­tory Frame­work for DSO

THISDAY - - BUSINESS WORLD | CONSUMER - Sto­ries by Ra­heem Ak­ing­bolu

Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Mul­tiChoice Nige­ria, Mr. John Ugbe has said Nige­ria needs ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tory and le­gal frame­work as well as a buy-in from all stake­hold­ers to make a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion from ana­logue to dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion broad­cast­ing. Ugbe stated this in a key­note ad­dress de­liv­ered at the 3rd Dig­i­tal Mi­gra­tion Sum­mit, which held in La­gos re­cently. The sum­mit was or­gan­ised by Broad­cast­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Nige­ria (BON).

While not­ing that the coun­try is a late starter on the mi­gra­tion jour­ney, Ugbe said it can learn from the ex­pe­ri­ences of coun­tries that have achieved dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion and avoid the mis­takes from pre­vi­ous ex­er­cises.

“Us­ing the United King­dom, Kenya and Rwanda as case stud­ies, one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is that they all opted to make Free-to-Air (FTA) cost­free in each coun­try. Another key les­son learnt is that they all had ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tory and le­gal frame­work in place and en­sured that there was buy-in from all stake­hold­ers. Every­one had a role to play – from mak­ing Set Top Boxes (STBs) af­ford­able and part­ner­ing with the pri­vate sec­tor which brought in in­vest­ment,” he coun­selled.

Digi­ti­sa­tion, he ex­plained, will en­sure bet­ter trans­mis­sion qual­ity and make more chan­nels avail­able. As a re­sult, there will be a need for com­pelling con­tent. “It is cru­cial to make con­tent as en­gag­ing as pos­si­ble, oth­er­wise we will lose our au­di­ence. Com­pelling con­tent is ex­pen­sive to achieve as it af­fects cost of equip­ment, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, to men­tion a few,” he ex­plained.

Along with dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion, he fur­ther ex­plained, will come a more ef­fec­tive use of spec­trum, with a move from one ana­logue chan­nel per fre­quency to over 20. While not­ing that dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion of­fers many ben­e­fits, Ugbe stated that it is also ac­com­pa­nied by chal­lenges.

“That there will be more chan­nels also means that the al­ready lim­ited ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue will shrink fur­ther. Ad­di­tion­ally, seg­ment bound­aries will blur.

The in­ter­net al­ready en­ables any­one to cre­ate and dis­trib­ute user gen­er­ated con­tent. There is tremen­dous di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion go­ing on and this will con­tinue in the fore­see­able fu­ture,” he said.

To get around the chal­lenges, Ugbe called for light- touch reg­u­la­tions that will en­sure lower costs for op­er­a­tors.

“We will need clearly de­fined taxes and levies that are in tune with the cur­rent re­al­i­ties. Higher levies will only in­crease the cost of broad­cast­ing and fur­ther im­pact the in­dus­try and gen­eral pub­lic. Fur­ther­more, Free to Air ser­vices should re­main free and avail­able to all and on all plat­forms to en­sure univer­sal ac­cess,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, Ugbe called for pub­lic en­light­en­ment that matches the mag­ni­tude of dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion to cre­ate aware­ness and re­move am­bi­gu­ity.

“The ob­jec­tive for Dig­i­tal Mi­gra­tion is not for peo­ple to pay for TV and as such broad­cast­ing as a pub­lic ser­vice needs to be more vi­brant. A good ex­am­ple of this prac­tice is Na­tional Geo­graphic.

There are no ad­verts when they trans­mit, yet they show­case in­for­ma­tive and ed­uca­tive con­tent which we all learn from.

The reg­u­la­tor has to work with the in­dus­try to use the least cost to achieve this. We need to adopt bet­ter mod­els to en­sure fund­ing of pub­lic ser­vice broad­cast­ing. We all have to be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants on this jour­ney,” Ugbe said.

Ugbe stated that tele­vi­sion broad­cast­ing in Nige­ria is al­ready dig­i­tal. DStv, he ex­plained was al­ready dig­i­tal by 1995. Mul­tiChoice, he added, went from MMDS to Dig­i­tal mo­bile in 2008. In 2011, it in­tro­duced GOtv, a Di­rect Ter­res­trial Ter­res­trial (DTT) ser­vice.

The Mul­tiChoice boss dis­closed that the com­pany’s in­vest­ment in Nige­ria be­tween 2011 and 2015 was above the $1 bil­lion mark. Part of the in­vest­ment dur­ing the four-year pe­riod was the $36mil­lion spend on li­cens­ing fees and pro­duc­tion of sports pro­grammes. He equally dis­closed that the­com­pany has in­vested over N15­bil­lion in the pro­duc­tion of lo­cal con­tent over the last 10 years

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