Nigerian TV switchover, content developer alleges indebtedness by government

A content aggregation company, Cable Channels Nigeria Limited (CCNL), owners of the Free TV television Channel and major stakeholder in the Nigerian Digital Television Switch- Over project in the country has alleged that the Federal Government has reneged in its funding commitment in the deal and has expressed concern over the slow pace of the digital switch-over in the country.

The chairman of the company, Mr. Kunle Osisanya-Afolabi told journalists at a news conference in Abuja that it has not received any seed money from the government since its appointment as the official content aggregator for the digital switchover by the National Broadcasting Commission.( NBC).

Osisanya-Afolabi explained that his firm had invested heavily in the ecosystem, apart from providing strategic consultation services and full end-to-end management services to the NBC for the roll out of DSO across the country.

He claimed that CCNL also produces and distributes detailed training packs which provided the channel with all the information necessary to sell ‘Free Tv’ products and support the DSO.

In addition, the CCNL, he explained, was also contracted by the government to distribute the set top boxes, adding that the company had so far distributed about 650,000 boxes to Nigerians.

The chairman said while other stakeholders were given seed money to commence operations, his firm was not funded by the government, adding that he had been using shareholders’ funds to run the firm.

Osisanya-Afolabi said, “CCNL is the only stakeholder in the comity of DSO operators and chain that has not been funded till date; we rather paid licence fee and generate funding for our operations from our shareholders’ fund.”

His words: “We were supposed to get commission from content owners but they have not been paying us, we are doing all the add-on value services without being paid anything; Other players in the sector were given seed money by the government, but we have not been paid anything. Our responsibilities centres around platform management, content management, consumer audience measurement, signal contribution, promotion and branding among others.

“At the commencement of DSO, we designed and developed the Free TV set boxes and distributed them, we also provided strategic consultation services to NBC, we interfaced with all the stakeholders ranging from Channel owners and signal distributors, we asked them for standard for the format of sending their signals and we helped with distribution g the set boxes to users.

“We undertook training sessions to ensure that installers are trained on the complete installation of Free TV decoders, produced and distributed retail training packs with essential information for DSO and organised ‘town storming’ activities to educate end users the digitalisation process.”

Corroborating the Chairman’s account, The CNNL Chief Executive Officer, Rajiv Mekkat also bemoaned the poor level of the DSO in the country and the failure of the government to pay his company, which he said had invested heavily in the ecosystem.

“By our functions in the DSO, we are expected to help government in disseminating information of government programmes to the general viewing public through the value added info services and we have been doing this, but we are worried by the slow pace of the DSO which has only covered Jos and part of the FCT.

“Right now, we have run out of money to produce more set boxes, a situation that is stalling the project from moving forward.” we are willing to continue to give our best services to ensure the success of DSO because its success is where lies our own profit, the more people have the boxes, the better we can help the country to collect Digital Access Fee (DAF), so the only way right now is for us to go in full blast and fortunately for us as a country, about four African countries have been here to understudy what we are doing, how successful we are and how partnership can emanate.” he said.

The Guardian learnt that many African countries may soon overtake Nigeria in the race to digital terrestrial broadcasting, stressing that the rest of the world may leave the country behind if nothing was done to boost the pace of the digital only Jos, Plateau State and the Federal Capital Territory had been covered under the digital switchover in the country.

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