Sabahi (Washington, DC)

Kenyan Broadcasters Feud With Regulatory Agency Over Digital Migration

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"It is very unfair for someone to expect me to spend 5,000 shillings to buy a universal set-top box so I can be able to receive digital signals to be able to enjoy my normal TV programming," he said. "To me this digital migration is meant for the rich."

Onyango recommended that the government subsidise the cost of the set-top boxes to make them affordable.

Mary Wangui, a 30-year-old divorced mother of three daughters in Nairobi, said the process was rushed and that she still had no idea what digital migration was all about and how the shift would benefit her.

"The government could have sensitised the public about digital migration as well as made the set-top boxes available and at a cost that is affordable even to us," she told Sabahi, adding that she cannot afford to have her television screen blank and be cut off from the world.

"If worse comes to worse I will divert the savings that I had made to pay school fees for my children next year and buy the so-called set-top box," she said, explaining that she would have more time during the year to save for the school fees. "But I doubt if many of other Kenyans can opt for such dire decision. I guess the majority will be switched off and cut off from getting news for the better part of the year."

Media owners rally against digital migration:

The Standard Group which owns KTN, Nation Media Group which runs NTV and Royal Media Services which owns Citizen TV moved to block the migration in court until the concerns raised are resolved, according to their lawyer Paul Muite.

Muite said the media groups were seeking to delay the migration until there is a demonstrable 50% universal set-top box penetration and the boxes are more affordable.

The media groups claim that an immediate switch-off would result in over 90% of television viewers locked out as they have not acquired the boxes, which will in turn lead to colossal losses in advertising revenue for the media houses, he said.

Muite said his clients also were seeking to delay digital migration until they are given licenses to transmit their respective content on unique digital frequencies.

"It is a violation of Article 34 (3) of the Kenyan constitution to compel them to migrate to the digital platform and at the sometime deny them digital licenses and frequencies, thus coercing them to be carried by competitors on terms, conditions and costs set by those competitors," Muite told Sabahi.

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