Sabahi (Washington, DC)

Kenyan Broadcasters Feud With Regulatory Agency Over Digital Migration

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According to local broadcast networks, which receive over 80% of viewership, they have been reduced to being content providers only, as they will have to cede transmission of their content for a fee to one of only two providers licensed by the CCK -- Chinese company Pan-Africa Network (PANG) or SIGNET, a subsidiary of the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation.

"This is the reason we are in court to fight an injustice inflicted by CCK to Kenyan investors who have invested billions of shillings over the years in the broadcasting business and signal distribution infrastructure," Muite said. "By denying them a license and frequencies to carry their own legitimate broadcasting business, giving licenses and frequencies to [a Chinese company], and leaving broadcasters at the mercy of foreign competitors, the government has failed."

'Most households ready for migration'

For his part, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology Fred Matiang'i brushed off claims that households were not prepared for the migration.

"As we talk, most households are ready for migration, contrary to the propaganda war being waged by the broadcasters who fear that digital migration will bring in more TV [channels] that will threaten their dominance in the market," Matiang'i told Sabahi.

According to Matiang'i, digital migration is planned in phases, with the first switch-off phase to affect Nairobi and neighbouring Machakos, Kiambu and Embu counties.

Of the 1.5 million televisions within the radius of the switch-off phase, he said, over 500,000 had already migrated to the digital platform by subscribing to satellite television service providers DStv or GOtv, whereas about 700,000 had bought the set-top boxes.

Matiang'i did not comment, however, on how licensing of the digital carriers was done and if licensing PANG and SIGNET only would limit media freedom in Kenya.

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