With the Federal Government of Nigeria’s consideration of merging the National Broadcasting commission and the National Communications commission, the Nigeria landscape is getting ready for convergence regulation that reflects the reality of 21st century. With the launch last week of Mobile Tv by MTN and DSTV, It is goodbye to the old order. Without the merging of these two key regulators, their functions will be over lapping. The old order of regulation does not accommodate the new realities of convergence where Telecommunications, Information technology and media are now moving into new frontiers in technology, content and media.
The concept of “convergence” is frequently used to describe the development of global information society. The process of convergence starts when previously separate technologies coming closer together as a direct consequence of the advances made in ICT. The most profound changes will probably take place as a result of the process of technological convergence of the previously separate telecommunications, cable, information, publishing and mass media industries. These industrial sectors are often referred to as ‘converging industries’. Borders that once separate them are now increasingly being blurred. Presently, we have different types of networks for telephony, broadcasting ,radio and television and they are regulated differently and usually by separate authorities. National Broadcasting commission regulates, Radio and television while National communications commission regulates telecommunications.
Convergence regulation, encompassing telecom, IT and broadcasting while Multi-sector regulation, where telecom is joined together with other infrastructural
Utilities such as electricity, gas and railroads. While Competition regulation is a broad range of different industries, where telecom is only a tiny fraction.
In my own opinion, I believe strongly that Government is trying to achieve convergence regulation though they did not clearly state it because government business always has political undertone at the detriment of excellence.
Convergence of technology is breaking new content aggregation, delivery and consumption of communication services. The major technological changes that have facilitated the convergence processes are digitalisation and computerization.
Digitalisation enables new possibilities for development and creation of services within and beyond the framework of traditional communication sectors. It is, for example, likely that services that go beyond the traditional broadcasting services, like Internet services, Mobile Tv, Triple play services will have a certain weight on the broadcasting market in the future, as demand for these services is increasing with the penetration of the ICT. When transmission capacity for end-user sites reaches that needed for transmission of video services, the Internet can be one of the platforms for interactive TV services.
Emerging new infrastructures with more capacity, developments in the traditional networks
enabling them to offer more capacity to end users, and developments in compression and
coding technologies resulting in less bandwidth requirements for audio and video services all
have diminished the technically based limitations for different networks to provide an increasing variety of different types of services. But there is still a long way to go before network capacity constraints are substantially eliminated.
Emerging new infrastructures with more capacity that can provide these new innovative services are Strong compelling reasons why the NBC and NCC Merger should be consummated soon so that they can offer regulatory policing because of the new changes in content that were formerly dedicated for specific industries can now be conveyed on a single or similar infrastructures because of the common digital form. This presents new possibilities for end users and new market potentials for producers, but it also presents
regulatory problems that have to be solved.
Some countries like Indian had been able to foresee the future possibilities and hence they have planned ahead.
They merged infrastructure regulation and content regulation. The new Communications Commission of India (CCI),is a regulatory framework that
facilitates the efficient utilization of available resources in different networks. The Indian communications regulator, integrates infrastructure and content regulation in one institution.
The UK is another example, in which the government united five existing regulatory bodies dealing with communications into one regulator, OFCOM, with authority in both infrastructural and content questions.
The challenges of such merger in Nigeria will be availability of highly skilled and knowledgeable helmsman to pilot the affairs of this new regulatory commission. There will be new challenges in a new way entirely because of the blurred border line between Telecommunications and Broadcasting. While the National communications was able to become the toast of the nation and a role model for regulators all over the continent was because the focused and purposeful leadership under Engr Ndukwe and his team mates.
The question is that with the Nigerian way of doing things, will they allow excellence and right judgment to reach a decision in choosing a new regulator or they will merge them with NCC still in control?
Since the movement of the convergence seems and is from telecommunications sectors,it will be more productive and more visionary to allow the telecommunications regulator to midwife the emerging convergence regulator.
Nigeria as a nation should invest more in ICT regulation training and studies to be able to consolidate its ICT successes in recent years. Convergence is shaping the present and future development of the ICT and media industries in ways
that challenge the existing institutional set-up.