By MARTIN EKPEKE
Even as broadband access seems to hinder full convergence, the days where conversations took place with just one person or through one medium are over, and never to return. Convergence has taken over all of that by bringing together telecommunications, computing and broadcasting into a single digital bit-stream. Today, so many people no longer watch video contents from the TV or stay glue to the radio for audio contents, there are multi platform devices in distribution of contents where you can view and listen to content at your own convenience.
Convergence of technology has made it easy for people to determine the time, place and the devices they want to use to view or listen to contents. Thanks to the availability and exploitation of sophisticated devices like the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Andriod, communication has become narrowed to just infrastructure and content.
At the 5th IT Edge West Africa Convergence Forum, Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, Engr. Yomi Bolarinwa in his paper,’Convergence and Emerging Realities in Nigeria Broadcast Industry’ asserted that convergence is the way to go, but caution that it should be taken through evolutionary means most especially on the part of regulatory authority.
Most people have argued that since convergence have thrown up the challenges of new technology where people have the privilege of enjoying different content from one platform, an entire new regulatory platform is required. While for others involved in the debates, the new regulatory structure should be built on the back of existing laws and regulatory bodies. Caution is the word here, said Bolarinwa, in the best way to handle what is clearly a transition period, if only on the grounds of providing standard, especially as broadcasters begin entering the world of telecommunications and telecom companies begin involving themselves in content.
The challenge before the regulator is enormous in a converged environment bearing in mind that the internet which convergence is subjected to is not amenable to certain rules and regulations that the regulatory bodies will want to enforce.
Some GSM companies have been providing broadcast content on mobile services, which has raised arguments of a cell phone company indulging in broadcasting without a broadcast authorisation. Already available in the market are Digital Video Personal Recorder that are conjointly available with superior mobile devices that has phoning and internet capability.
The regulator must look at new ways of guiding people to do things that give them comfort but will not give discomfort to other people, there must be rules and regulations put in place to checkmate the kind of content that goes into the open space, cautioned the broadcast regulatory boss.
Bolarinwa said regulatory bodies need to set-up inter-sectorial committees to work out modalities to enable the people they serve take full advantage of modern converged services. “The challenge for the existing regulators is to work in harmony to facilitate the possibility of their licensees being able to provide these value added services without any burden of sectorial grandstanding”.
He also advised that since former consumers are now producers, media practitioners should ensure that their contents represent the true interest of the listeners and viewers. “We are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap. The days of content produced by professionals for public consumption are over.”
“The combination of shifts in communications control and patterns is redefining the competitive landscape, giving rise to new business models in contrast with traditional models. Emerging models are based on open platforms that support many-to-many and collaborative patterns and platforms. Convergence itself has its challenges with the lack of infrastructures for broadband penetration. The only way to take full advantage of convergence that is looking at us in the face is to make broadband readily available even to the last mile, so as to have fast internet network to drive it.”