Engr Yomi Bolarinwa director general, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the agency that is responsible for the regulation of broadcast services in the country is one of Nigeria’s finest engineers. Bolarinwa has been in the industry for quite long time and he exudes passion for it development He spoke to ken nwogbo on a wide range of issues.
June 17, 2012 Deadline For Digital Broadcasting
The transition programme is actually from now till 2012. On June 17th 2012, broadcasting in Nigeria becomes digitalized. From now till June, 2012 there will be simultaneous transition from analogue signals and televisions to digital ones. This means that on the 17th of that month, analogue transmission will cease and we will all cross over to mainly digital transmission.
The major difference is the way signals are sent from stations to homes. Rather than send them in analogue format, they are sent in digital format; that implies that at home, people will get more content, high picture quality just like that produced by DVD, have interactivity with their broadcasters (they can answer questions while viewing programmes, with the help of their remote control rather than calling into the programme); people can get more information about programmes on air, more language channels - a broadcast that is usually a mono channel has the capability to have multiple channels. Take your handset for example, the language can be in Arabic but it gives you room to click on English and it will change every instruction to English. So the implication for digital broadcasting is that people can afford to view the same programmes at the same time but in different languages.
Essentially, what we have at the moment is analogue TV receive access. When you transmit digitally-digital is not compatible with analogue.
The set-up box which is like a converter will convert the digital signal to analogue signal so that a television set that is basically analogue can interface with the digital signal. The set-up box is a digital to analogue signal converter. But the name everyone in the industry calls it is the set-up box.
Nigerians and Digitisation
Part of the preparation is what you and I am doing now. We must inform the public; we must tell them what is required of them with this development. First, what are viewers supposed to do to continue to watch their favourite programmes.
They need a set-up box. If they have the financial wherewithal they can buy a new digital TV. They must also have an antenna that is good because in the digital era, it is either the signal is their or not. Unlike in analogue that you can watch pictures that are not very clear, in digital if the signal is poor, you won’t get anything. Having said that, we are all stakeholders; government is involved-the executive, the legislature, the broadcasters and then the viewers. Everybody has a role to play. Government must put in place policies and policy statements that will drive this transition. Legislators must work with the executive to pass regulation or bills that will ensure that this transition takes place orderly and smoothly. The regulators must enforce the policy; they must interpret the policy for broadcasters and viewers and drive it. The viewers must then take a look at what they have and what they need to have to enable them keep pace with current trends.
NBC and Local content
Well, clearly we are not happy. For example, look at the family belt between 7pm and 10pm; it cuts across. You find soap opera which pre-dominates except for the brief in-between news. We are not happy about that. Nigerians have the capability to produce even the soaps that we watch; that have local background. But what we have today are Mexican soap operas that everybody is always eager to watch and for us as regulators, it is not okay at all. On Sundays, Fridays, it is religious progammes back to back and we are not happy about that. There are contents even in religion; you can preach in several categories of programmes. Then you need to look at most of our stations, over 60 per cent of their broadcasts are produced by independent producers and so, it is like they just come, buy airtime and this we have been discussing and telling them that this is an area we need more content otherwise, viewers would be made to spend extra money without getting value back.
Broadcast Stations Dominance in Lagos, Abuja
It is not wise, of course. We as the regulators are doing the much we can. For example, you discover that it is almost impossible to buy an application form for those locations. Also, there should be an incentive for people to move into those areas since the broadcast industry is driven by advertisement and the advertisers have areas where they put their money; they have markets they want to reach and if their market is not at a particular place, they do not want to put their money there. So, all levels of government should encourage business people and entrepreneurs to establish stations in their domains.
Regulation of Internet Radio
What makes broadcasting unique is the content. You must have the ability, whatever technology you adopt to deliver. The regulator is always on top of you; the regulator must be capable and ensure that every signal within the Nigerian airwaves is being monitored and so, we are able to apply the rules and regulations of the National broadcasting Commission. Some people will tell you it is difficult to regulate on the internet-Google and Yahoo cannot disseminate particular information because the governments of their mother countries take note and do not approve of that and there is no computer you use on the internet that cannot be traced. It has an IP address and is traceable. So, there is nothing within the airspace of Nigeria that we do not monitor.
I think the first kudos should go to government itself, the second should go to the Honourable Minister for Information and Communication, Mr. John Odey for giving us the latitude, the freedom to be ourselves. If you complain about all these broadcasts or write any letter against any of these stations today, to the minister, he will send it to the NBC and he will listen to the NBC’s professional advice and treat that letter based on the advice given to him and he wouldn’t mount any form of pressure on the NBC. So given that freedom, we are able to operate professionally, according to rules and regulations and that particularly, is responsible for the present status of the NBC.
There is no going back. The government itself has clearly told everybody in the last one year the role of the rule of law. Whatever the NBC is doing, it is not doing it for the commission but for Nigeria. The airwaves belong to Nigeria and Nigeria wants to know how many radio and television licenses are there and the criteria for licensing people (Is it free for every Nigerian to apply or for special kind of people?) Licensing is for all Nigerians; if you have the wherewithal and a good record and send in application and the frequency is available, you stand a good chance of getting the license.
With all due respect, I disagree with you that there are licenses that are lying dormant. The code states that if you are given a license, what you get initially is provisional approval. If your license is finally approved, you now have a license. If you do not operate your license which has been paid for within two years, you will lose it. If you are given three months to activate your license and at the end you do not, you will lose it. Visit our website
Analogue and Digital Broadcasting
www.nbc.gov.ng, the list of our licensees is there and it is being updated regularly. If anybody comes to you claiming to have a license, if his name is not on the list, he does not have a license. Then, if after the time given to you have elapsed and you come on air; you will pay penalty. That is, if we are going to allow you operate.