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Wednesday 12th May, 2021

BROADCASTING

DSO: Corruption, Poor Conception May Thwart Process-Broadcast Industry Insiders

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As the Federal Government kicks off the second phase of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO) journey, there are fears within the broadcasting industry that its completion, expected to take three years, is under threat from corruption and ill-conception.

Industry insiders point to the lack of transparency and apparent corruption that attended government spending on the first phase of the DSO, leading to Nigeria’s failure to meet two earlier deadlines to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.

A Jos-based broadcast engineer, who does not want his name in print for fear of reprisal, explained that a major hindrance to progress in the switch over process is the dodgy handling of monies earmarked for the first phase of the country’s DSO journey by those in charge.

He pointed to the N2.5billion corruption scandal that erupted from the 2017 payment of seed grant to a private company, in breach of the guidelines of the Federal Government Whitepaper on Digital Migration, which led to the suspension and eventual arraignment of a former Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

“The suspended NBC Director-General, if you recall, is facing charges related to intent to defraud the Federal Government by paying the said sum to a company that was not entitled to receive such grant.

“His suspension and arraignment followed petitions to the ICPC by stakeholders. Payment of the grant was approved by the Minister of Information and Culture who, curiously, was not charged along with the suspended Director-General,” he said.

He also described the recent approval of N9.4billion by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), announced last month by the Minister of Information and Culture, as payments to key DSO stakeholders, as “a standing invitation” to those that mismanaged monies earmarked for the first phase.

According to him, most of the stakeholders paid for the first phase are unable to justify payments received, as evidenced by the lack of DSO infrastructure and a halt to the programme since 2018.

In February, the Information Minister announced the approval of N9.4billion for payment of outstanding payments to major DSO stakeholders, adding that the move will take care of the funding problems that have hindered the programme in the last three years.

Another broadcast engineer, based in Lagos, disclosed that the source of the money for the DSO second phase spending was the N34billion paid by MTN for broadcast frequency. He noted most of those to be paid from this sum are those unable to justify the payments so far received.

He said one of the licensed signal carriers, affiliated to the Nigerian Television Authority, got N1.7 billion for the commencement of the DSO but is dependent on the infrastructure of a major Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) operator’s network coverage in just four cities across the country.

He also noted that the other licensed signal carrier, which got N2.5billion as seed grant, has coverage in only the capitals of the five states of Plateau, Kwara, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu and the Federal Capital Territory, which were the pilot locations despite payment by the Federal Government.

“Free TV with which the NBC hopes to drive the DSO is operational only in six locations. How can this infrastructure gap be bridged in three years?” he asked.

A retired staff of the Nigerian Television Authority said the country’s conception of the DSO was flawed from the start because of the adoption of Set-Top-Boxes with conditional access (CA) built into them.

He explained that what is needed to convert analogue to digital signals are standard type STBs, not those with conditional access like those pay television operations, for which he claimed the provider of the system was N1billion in the first phase.

The Information Minister recently announced that the next phase of the DSO will begin in Lagos State on 29 April and will be followed by Kano, Rivers, Gombe and Yobe states

 

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BROADCASTING

IPOB: NBC Fines Channels TV, Inspiration FM N5m Each For Infractions

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Professor Armstrong Idachaba (right), Acting Director-General of the NBC

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined Channels TV and Inspiration FM Lagos N5 million each for infractions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Acting Director-General of the NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, made this known in a statement made available to the media, on Thursday in Abuja

Idachaba recalled that NBC on Monday, April 26, served Channels TV a letter indicating the station’s culpability and liability for infractions of the Code in respect to its broadcast of “Politics Today” of Sunday, April 25.

He noted that the station violated Sections 3.11.1(b) and 5.4.3 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

In the same vein, Idachaba said on May 2, in its World Report, Inspiration FM Lagos aired a broadcast of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) making secessionist claims in breach of 3.11.1(b) and 5.4.3 of the Code.

He said Channels TV and Inspiration FM broadcast secessionist, divisive, violent and inflammatory comments.

“Section 3.11.1(b), the Broadcaster shall ensure that no programme contains anything which amounts to subversion of constituted authority or compromises the unity or corporate existence of Nigeria as a sovereign state.

“Section 5.4.3, in reporting conflict situations, the broadcaster shall perform the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality,” he said.

The Acting DG noted that the violations of the identified sections, being a ‘Class A’ offence, attracts sanctions in section 15.2.1 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which provides “Immediate order of suspension of broadcast services; suspension of licence and immediate shutdown and seal up of transmitter, revocation of licence, seizure and forfeiture or transmitting equipment

“(In) 15.5.1: the following penalties shall apply in respect of a breach committed by the broadcaster: light, N200,000 to N500,000; heavy, N500,000 to N4,999,000; severe, N5,000,000.”

He said that other countries in the world had taken measures through regulations and the law to curb excesses including the destruction of lives, property and the unwanton breakdown of law characterised by a negative broadcast of terrorist groups such as the IPOB.

The United Kingdom Government, he said, took action against the IRA and banned it from airing inflammatory and divisive rhetoric to its use audiences.

“Following the announcements of liability to the sanctions stated in 15.1.1 and 15.1.2 both stations have accepted culpability for the infractions and earlier offered unreserved apologies for the breaches.

“Following the announcements of liability to the sanctions stated in 15.1.1 and 15.1.2 both stations have accepted culpability for the infractions and earlier offered unreserved apologies for the breaches.

“The NBC has reviewed the appeals and apologies from both stations and has decided to set aside the option of suspension of licence.

“The Commission has, however, directed both stations (Channels TV and Inspirational FM) to pay N5 million penalty each to serve as a deterrent,” Idachaba said.

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BROADCASTING

GOtv Nigeria Introduces Enhanced Decoder Notification

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GOtv Nigeria is introducing an Enhanced Decoder Notification (EDN) functionality to keep its customers informed and in control of their viewing experience.

This EDN functionality which will be activated on Tuesday, 6th April 2021 refers to a set of icons that appear on the screen containing valuable information like how many viewing days are left before a customer’s next payment is due, the latest special offers and discounts, as well as information on new content, campaigns and upcoming celebrations.

Customers can access this information by pressing the “okay” button on their remote, followed by “messages” on the menu bar and then use the arrow keys to scroll through the different messages.

Speaking on the latest update, Chief Customer Officer, MultiChoice Nigeria, Martin Mabutho said: “We are constantly driven to ensure our customers enjoy our services and are always looking to offer innovative ways to give them better control and improved customer support.

“The Enhanced Decoder Notification functionality is another way we are delivering on this promise.”

Mabutho added that with the new EDN service, customers will have fewer interruptions whilst viewing.

GOtv Nigeria continues to position itself as one of Africa’s most accessible sources of family entertainment.

The Enhanced Decoder Notification functionality will be activated on Tuesday, 6th April 2021.

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BROADCASTING

COVID-19: The Need To Look At MultiChoice

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By Chigoziem DIKE

A confession: I happen to be one of the millions of Nigerians, who view corporate organisations, especially those with non-Nigerian origins, as being in the country for nothing other than profits.

While I fully understand that a loss-making business is nothing more than a recreational activity, I still cling to the view that businesses in Nigeria, where regulatory institutions are frail, are in the game to make money and more money.

Nothing else in spite of efforts by companies at “giving back to the society”, which I think are sometimes attended by obsequious publicity which makes them appear hollow.

That view is a product of my belief that what businesses “give back to the society” is measly compared to what they cream off their customers – an assumption devoid of any knowledge of their operational costs and which ignores the inclement conditions under which businesses operate.

I hold a similar view of politicians, who I suspect, give tiny fractions of what they earn to their constituents via empowerment schemes. I have held on to this view for a long time, but my hold on it has weakened a little.

Why? How? By whom? I will answer the questions in reverse order. MultiChoice is the answer. I am a DStv subscriber and MultiChoice is the last company I thought had any feeling for its subscribers beyond taking their naira-of course, in exchange for the quality entertainment unavailable outside its two platforms.

My two youngest siblings recently became subscribers of DStv and GOtv respectively, a reason for which they are thrilled. The thrill they are experiencing is not just that they now have access to what they have always wished for (both just got jobs), but the cost at which they got it.

They are, I believe, two of the earliest beneficiaries of MultiChoice’s ongoing price reduction promo via which aspiring subscribers can buy DStv and GOtv decoders at hugely discounted prices. The older one got herself a DStv decoder at N9,900 complete with a free one-month subscription on DStv Confam. The younger rewarded herself with a GOtv decoder for N6, 900, which came with a free subscription on GOtv Jolli for the same period.

The price slash promo, announced some four weeks ago, I believe, is appropriately timed, as it shows that the provider’s understanding of COVID-19’s impact on finances and desire to soothe its effects on its customers.

Hints of the understanding shown had manifested last year, just as COVID-19 berthed in Nigeria and threatened a never-seen-before disruption of socio-economic life. The balm provided was “We’ve Got You” campaign, an allusion to the willingness to support customers.

The campaign, of which I was a beneficiary, ran for three months and provided DStv and GOtv subscribers an upgrade to the next higher bouquet on renewal of the subscription on his/her regular bouquets.

That gesture was also attended by the granting of access to Free-to-Air (FTA) news, kiddies and sporting channels. And with the ban on congregation for religious purposes, part of the measures to curtail the spread of the virus, a pop-up channel, Hallelujah, was introduced to bring the church to DStv and GOtv Christian subscribers’ living rooms just as Muslim subscribers were granted access to Sunna TV, starting from the beginning of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month.

The lockdown, of course, imposed on fun seekers the obligation of staying away from parties. To fill the gap, party fun-loving DStv and GOtv subscribers were served weekly lashings of party fun through Turnup Friday and Owambe Saturday.  More fun came via COVID-19 Hope for Africa Concert, in partnership with One Africa Global Foundation.

Aside customers, the government and general public received support, as the country quaked under thinning finances and social disruption. To support government efforts at containing the spread of the virus, MultiChoice made cash donations of N200 million to the Federal Government and N50 million to Lagos State government.

It also donated 60, 000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospitals and Non-Governmental Organisations. Delivered10,0000 face masks to dealers and other inits value chain and provided PPE, sanitiser and immunity-boosting multivitamins to employees.

These steps were accompanied by contribution to public education about the virus through a partnership with the UN and the U.S Embassy to carry Educational Public Service Announcements (PSAs).

Further support for public education and enlightenment was provided through the regular highlighting of the helplines of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on more than 10 channels on DStv and GOtv platforms at a cost estimated to be in excess of N550 million.

With its finger permanently on the pulse of entertainment, MultiChoice realised that with the lockdown, the TV and film sector was headed for something akin to an intensive care unit. Productions were naturally affected, leaving professionals in the sector gasping in the financial sense.

To save the situation, MultiChoice made a commitment of up to N400million, to safeguard the income of cast and crew on various production. Also, alumni of the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy (MTFA) were financially supported to shoot documentaries.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 stole in on us all and shattered our plans, including the best-laid ones. That we, as a society are gradually emerging from the socio-economic rubble it bequeathed, is in large parts, due to contributions of corporate organisations like MultiChoice.

Dike a Public Affairs analyst, writes from Abuja

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