By John Akubo, Abuja
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has pledged to turn around the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) to enable it compete with the likes of Cable News Network (CNN) if the $500m loan the ministry requested is approved. He stated this when he appeared before Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Loans to defend the $500m loan the ministry applied for from President Muhammadu Buhari’s $29.96b loan for funding critical infrastructure in the country.
The minister explained that if the fund was approved, the NTA could be upgraded to enable it to send out signals that would be at par with CNN, “because we have the manpower and the technology.”He explained that the creative industry was not just about Television alone, but film, music, fashion and photography, adding that there was no better platform to showcase Nigeria’s talents than having a digital system.
He said the creative industry employs no fewer than one million young persons directly and indirectly, noting, “If this project is approved, there will be more visibility for our people in the music, fashion and film industries.
“In 2014, we made $23m from music alone and about $53m in 2019 and we are looking forward to making $83m in 2025. You can imagine the kind of growth we will have if only we digitise all the NTA stations in the country.”
He said the project for which the ministry planned to borrow the $500m was about employment and revenue generation, saying the industry contributes 1.492 to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Apart from agriculture, which is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, especially the youths, the next largest employer of labour is the creative industry,” he said, insisting that the $500m would go a long way in improving the creative industry.
“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2006 gave June 17, 2015 as deadline for all members of the organisation to migrate from analogue to digital. Regrettably, we were unable to meet the deadline along side most countries in sub-Sahara Africa, the deadline was moved to 2017, which was not reliable and today the target is June 17, 2020,” he stated.
He restated the need for the country to meet the new deadline because if the world migrates from analogue to digital and Nigeria remains analogue, it meant that it would be unable to enlighten, entertain and educate Nigerians. He said the loan was aimed at establishing the media and culture industry centre at the cost of $245m, digitise all NTA stations at $11m and construct integrated television services to infuse on network, which is signal distributor and essential component of the digitisation project.