By Rotimi Ijikanmi
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has assured that the decoders for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) Free Tv, otherwise known as Set Top Boxes (STB) will be affordable.
The Director-General of the Commission, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, gave the assurance during an interactive session with newsmen in Abuja on Sunday.
Idachaba allayed the fear expressed in certain quarters that with the removal of subsidy on the boxes and the decision by the Federal Government to hands off DSO sponsorship, the decoders would be out of reach of the common man.
“At the moment, there is PayTv in Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in Nigeria, like DSTv, Gotv and Startimes.
“What the government intends to do is to get this same digital content quality available to ordinary Nigerians in FreeTv, hence the transition from analogue to DTT proposition that we are pushing.
“Accessibility to this by those in the low social equilibrium is very vital because government has the obligation to get information available to all segment of the citizenry whether high or low.
“For the ordinary man to be able to afford STB which is the major device to access digital television, the Government has deliberately set up two middleware companies.
“The boxes are driven by the software that is imbedded in it and we hope that by competition, the charges for the price of the boxes will get low,’’ he said
Idachaba said there was a deliberate clause in the DSO White Paper that empowers the Digiteam with the supervision of the NBC to regulate the pricing of the boxes.
“We are giving this box manufacturing business to entrepreneurs who might want to maximise profit, but government has to consciously watch how they fix those prices in order to remain affordable,’’ he said.
Idachaba said government all over the world, must find a way to support the indigents and people in the low income rung of the society.
He recalled that at the pilot stage of the DSO roll out, the government incentivise the boxes by making it very low and affordable.
According to him, because the subsidy is not sustainable, they have devised other ways to make the purchase of the decoders easy.
“The box manufacturers said they can engage the people directly, the state government, the civil service structure to arrange a financing plan where people just take the boxes and pay over time till they defray the cost.
“Another way is to encourage the local government, NGOs, social responsibility organisations and other groups to purchase the boxes and distribute free of charge to lower rung of the society,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that following the successful inauguration of the DSO in April 2016 in Jos, the Federal Government announced the reduction of price of STB to N1,500 to get it across to all Nigerians.
Similarly, the Plateau Government had announced subsidy plans for its citizens and promised to distribute 300,000 boxes to them. (NAN)