Nigeria is close to migrating fully to digital TV. On April 29th residents of Lagos State, the former capital and still commercial heart of Nigeria, were given an official warning that they have just six months to switch from analogue TV reception to digital. The plan to introduce DTT was announced in 2006.
Viewers can buy new TVs or a set-top converter box to receive existing terrestrial TV channels plus new digital-only broadcasts.
The digital system is free to view and provides for 60 channels but viewers have to pay Naira 1500 (about $4) for an annual licence. The new DTT offering trades as ‘Free TV’ and currently offers 27 channels.
The Nigerian government is anticipating significant growth in its media and TV production sectors as a result of the shift to digital TV, with Nigeria Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed saying that move could represent 1 million new jobs in the country.
However, the switch-over has been surrounded by controversy. First up are the government instructions that pay-TV operators GOtv and StarTimes must migrate their channels to the new DTT system despite the switchover being at an embryonic stage of its roll-out.
Second, there’s criticism that the Minister’s special advisor on DTT – and the head of Free TV – has been, in effect, placed in control of the nation’s TV broadcasting given that Free TV also controls the middleware and conditional access system for the country. Critics say that Free TV will rapidly not be free if the service is dominated by pay-broadcasters.
Third, there’s continued accusations of corrupt practices with the government alleged to be far too secretive as to the costs to date of the DTT system in the six Nigerian states where DTT has been introduced.