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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Digitization is opportunity – Africast

The 8th biennial conference of the African Broadcasters (Africast-2010) ended at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with the body urging members to see digitization as an opportunity for them to optimise their potentials in the industry.

Africast was introduced in 1996 by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the broadcast regulator in Nigeria, as a new gateway to Africa’s broadcast market and serves as a platform for thrashing broadcast-related issues relating to Africa. It holds biennially and usually have participants drawn from professionals, academics and policy makers as well as hosts broadcast equipment manufacturers who are targeting emerging African market.

The conference rose from 2010 session to note that implementation of the on-going digitisation programme by African countries is capital intensive and require huge financial investment by all stakeholders.

According to the communiqué of the session made available to ITRealms Online, participants were quick to add that digitisation offers members the opportunity to maximize their potentials to tell their stories in a manner that is relevant to the values and developmental goals of nations.

They noted that level of awareness on digitisation among broadcasters and the public is still very dismal for meaningful appreciation of the benefits of digitisation.

The content of broadcasting as well as appropriate technology, they noted, are the key to drive the process of digitisation.

Participants did not fall short in noticing the impact of climatic conditions on broadcasting, saying that it remains important factors in the acquisition, installation and management of broadcast equipment in digital broadcasting.

Rapidity of technological development, participants said, have serious financial and technical implications for the maintenance of standards in digital broadcasting.

Digitisation has socio-cultural, political and economic implications for, especially, developing countries, citing an instance with the difficulties participants, especially some exhibitors faced in clearing their equipment for exhibition.

The conference commended the Nigerian Government for providing a favourable policy environment and for taking appropriate actions on the implementation of the digitisation programme, specifically for the decision to issue a White Paper on digitisation, approving the community radio recommendation and for giving NBC the powers to grant community radio licenses.

They urged for the current tempo on the implementation of digitisation programme to be enhanced so as to meet the 2015 deadline set by the United Nations, through the International telecommunication Union (ITU).

In addition, they urged the Nigerian government to accelerate the release of the White paper on digital transition.

Africast also warned members to be mindful of the emergence of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, saying that these should be taken more seriously as effective broadcast tools.

This is coming as they are contemplating making Africast an annual event instead of a biennial event.

Participants called on African broadcasters to partner with Africast to ensure that it grows to become Africa’s answer to Japanese National Association of Commercial Broadcasters (NAB) and London-based International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) and the like.

Stakeholders in the broadcast industry, were also advised to establish and sustain a special fund for content development.

The conference which has as its theme: “Africa in Digital Transition: Options and Perspectives” featured exhibition of broadcasting technologies by 33 local and international broadcast equipment manufacturers, with the confab registering 68 broadcasters in attendance for the first time since inception.

Additionally, it session which attracted 250 registered participants, including 50 Chief Executives of broadcast stations, 40 reporters, over 1500 visitors to the exhibition.

The conference appreciated the organization of this year’s event and listed NBC, MultiChioce, Netcom, DAARsat, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), WTS, StarTimes and Pinnacle for their supports.

The participants came from 15 countries including the United Kingdom, USA, Japan, South Africa and Ghana, Sierra-Leone, Israel, Italy, China, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, UAE and France.

The conference was also graced by other distinguished personalities, including the Honourable Minister for Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who was represented by the Minister of State for Information and Communication, Mr. Labaran Maku, chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, chairman and members of the NBC board were led at the occasion by the NBC Director-General, Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa among other chief executives of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

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