27 July 2012

Kenya: Media Owners Ready for Signal License

THE Media Owners Association has said it is now ready to take up government's offer to be the third signal distributor as Kenya migrates from analogue to digital television.

MOA chairman Kiprono Kittony said the body will soon form a consortium so that it can be awarded the license which the government promised in October last year. "We are ready to take up the promise, we will be approaching the ministry with our application to take up the offer," said Kittony.

Kittony said the different media owners had sorted out the legal issues that were keeping them from taking up the license. MOA will compete with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's subsidiary Signet and Chinese-owned firm Pan African Network Group who have already rolled out transmission in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. MOA protested when Pan African Group was awarded the license through a tender process as the local applicants- Royal Media Company and Nation Media Group - were denied.

However, the Communication Commission of Kenya acting Director General Francis Wangusi said the market could already be saturated with two distributors due to the low penetration of television sets in Kenya which may mean that a third signal distributor may not be economically viable. CCK also warned media owners, who are licensed to broadcast free-to-air content, against charging for their own stations as they will be subjected to the pay-TV regulations.

Under the current digital migration plan, broadcasters have to pay digital signal distributors for their channels to be run with some exemptions for the free-to-air ones. Wangusi said 36 applicants for new free-to-air digital channels have been licensed out of 160 applicants. "These are Kenyans who had developed local content but had no where to air it," he said. Kittony and Wangusi were speaking during the launch of Startimes Media, digital pay-TV provider hosted on Pan Africa group signal. Startimes has rolled out in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa and is targeting 12 more towns by the end of the year.

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