NEWS

FreeTv decoder to be sold at N9,000 – Manufacturers

The Chairman of the Set-Top Box, STB, manufacturers, Geoffrey Ohuabunwa, says a decoder for the Digital Switch Over, DSO, Free TV, otherwise known as STB will be sold for N9, 000.

Mr Ohuabunwa disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday, as the Federal Government resumes rollout of DSO across the country.

The chairman of the STB manufacturers, a critical stakeholder in the process of the nation’s transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting, was responding to the fear expressed in some quarters over the boxes.

Mr Ohuabunwa allayed the fear that with the removal of subsidy on the boxes and Government’s decision to hands-off DSO sponsorship, the decoders would be out of reach of the common man.

“Originally, as contained in the DSO White Paper, the box is to cost 20 dollars which, when it was converted as at that time. it was about N3000.

“The cost of the boxes in dollar has not changed but with the value of naira which has depreciated, the naira equivalent will be multiplied thrice and that is about N9000 per one,’’ he said.

Recall that at the inaugural roll-out of DSO, the box was sold for N1,500 following Federal Government’s subsidy.

It was inaugurated in Jos, Plateau in 2016, followed by Abuja and subsequently in Kwara, Kaduna, Enugu and lastly Osogbo in Feb. 2018.

Mr Ohuabunwa said they were ready to make available the over 24 million boxes that were required for the project across the country.

“The Federal Government had licensed 13 STB manufacturers out of which many had set up their factories and have started production.

“I know that more than two million boxes that were manufactured for the exercise before the project was halted were still being kept in the warehouses,’’ he said.

He said that although the Bank of Industry was assisting in the area of access to fund, there was need for additional funding through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to meet up with the scheduled time of delivery of the DSO project

“Foreign exchange should be made available for us and I want to suggest a special allocation for the project through the CBN,’’ he said.

Mr Ohuabunwa corrected the misinformation on the conditional access embedded in the STB that it would make it more expensive.

He explained that the conditional access was embedded to protect the box from piracy and hacking as well as for easy collection of statutory TV license fee.“

The conditional access also gives tracking device for people to know where their boxes are in case they are stolen and it also has an inbuilt audience management component

“The cost of adding the conditional access to the box is very insignificant which is about 0.5 dollar,’’ he said.

Mr Ohuabunwa assured Nigerians of the readiness of all stakeholders in the DSO project to deliver according to plans, stressing that it would be beneficial and affordable.

Recall that the Acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, recently gave same assurances that the decoders would not be out of reach of the common man.

Idachaba, in an interview with newsmen, had said that because the subsidy was not sustainable, they had devised other ways to make the purchase of the decoders easy.

“The box manufacturers will 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 the lower rung of the society,’’ he said.

Recall that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had also given assurance that the Federal Government would assist the manufacturers through a reduction in the importation of raw materials for STB production.

The minister also encouraged the manufacturers to explore the windows of the Pioneer Status granted to creative industry sector on tax holiday and another incentive on importation.

NAN

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