by Akan Ido
With the deadline for Nigeria’s migration to digital terrestrial television broadcasting drawing nearer, Nigerian authorities are set to introduce content access fees to replace radio licence fees.
This was made public in Abuja yesterday by the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, at the Extra Ordinary meeting of the National Council of Information.
According to Maku: “For a long time radio licences have not been collected and in other countries the public broadcast services are run from fees collected on broadcast content.
“But unfortunately in our country, the existing constitutional provision has made fee collection less effective.
“Now, we are undertaking a new format. We are taking advantage of the digital technology and looking beyond sending people to go from place to place to collect fees for broadcast content,” he said.
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The minister outlined some of the advantages of the new broadcast content fee collection regime to include, improved financial capability for stakeholders to improve content and upgrade infrastructure.
He said this would help the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission and other stakeholders have access to adequate funds for sustained upgrade of their infrastructure for effective service delivery.
On the NCI meeting, Maku said Nigeria was at crossroads to either transit smoothly or risk being cut-off from the rest of the world by June 2015 when the global migration deadline takes effect.
He stressed the need for improved coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria joined the rest of the world in the new digital era.
“We are here because we are approaching the deadline and Nigeria must transit.
“We must do everything possible, we must work 24 hours to ensure that our country is not cut-off from the rest of the world,’’ he said.
The minister, who acknowledged that the process of migration was not an easy one, however, noted that the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages.
While stressing the need for a robust public sensitisation ahead of the deadline, Mr. Maku urged the NBC, state governments and private broadcast stations to work together to ensure a smooth transition for the country.
Earlier, Edward Amana, Head of the Digiteam (Federal Government’s Committee on Digitisation), emphasised the need for the training of the manpower that would drive the process effectively.
Mr. Amana said that states were expected to upgrade studio equipment to digital standard and re-educate their workforce on the anticipated changes in the industry.
He said the signs from the states were encouraging, noting that this was an indication that the transition would be smooth.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Folasade Esan, said that the issues being deliberated were urgent and of importance to the development of the country.
Ms. Esan said the extra ordinary meeting would also brainstorm on previous strategies adopted in the nation’s information campaign against terrorism in Nigeria.
The 36 states and the FCT attended the meeting with the theme “Digitisation and National Security’’.