21 December 2012

Kenya: Court Suspends Nairobi's Digital TV Migration Plan

A television remote control,the government has set December 31 as deadline for digital migration Photo/Joseph Kariuki

The digital TV migration which was set to kick of in Nairobi from December 31 has been suspended.

The High Court yesterday issued temporary orders stopping the switch from analogue to digital TV until January 11 when it will make a ruling. Justice Isaac Lenaola granted the order sought by the Consumer Federation of Kenya who are challenging the migration.

The Information ministry had given notice that it will switch all televisions in Nairobi that are currently broadcast using the analogue system to the digital system by December 31 but Cofek sued arguing that the notice is too short.

It argued that given the economic challenges facing Kenyans, the upcoming general elections which Kenyans need to follow keenly, the trials facing four Kenyans at the International Criminal Court there was need for uninterrupted TV reception.

Cofek through lawyer Henry Kurauka said the move is unreasonable and expensive to Kenyans most of whom might not have enough money to buy required set top boxes to shift from analogue to digital.

In his defense Information minister Samuel Poghisio said the migration from analogue to digital is geared to increase Kenya competitiveness in the global information communication technology arena.

"The intended migration will free the scarce frequency spectrum for use by many players in the industry, thus enhancing plurality, diversity and increased employment opportunities in the broadcasting sector."

The court was also told that the government has already zero rated set-top boxes to ensure affordability by ordinary Kenyans. Globally all analogue broadcasting services will migrate to digital services by 2015.

On Wednesday night Poghisio said government could consider extending the deadlines, if it is found that consumers are not ready. "We will have to assess the situation - before implementing the Nairobi switch off," Poghisio said during a Radio Africa Group end year party.

"We'll sit with the media owners and other stakeholders and analyse the situation. When we are ready to migrate, we will," the minister said.

Poghisio was responding to a call by the Media Owners Association chairman Kiprono Kittony to give consumers more time to get ready for digital migration.

"We cannot afford to have 4 million people switched off, especially during this time,what we are asking government is to consider extension of the deadline to sometime next year," Kittony said.

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