The government has agreed to postpone the deadline for digital migration to June next year in what Media Owners say is a positive move to bring all stakeholders on board.
On Sunday, following a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i agreed to push the migration deadline to June next year. However, the Information Cabinet Secretary left open how the new schedule would be implemented.
On Thursday morning, media chiefs are expected to meet Dr Matiangi on his invitation for discussions on how the new deadline should be handled.
Kenya had previously set a switch-over date from analogue to digital broadcast for December 2012 based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) digital terrestrial television migration deadline of 17th June, 2015.
Although the analogue switch-off was to be conducted in phases starting with Nairobi, Consumer lobby group, Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) went to court arguing the programme could disadvantage many Kenyans especially at the time of elections. The government later agreed to talks and Cofek withdrew the case.
However, media owners still had several issues which they thought the changed December 2013 switch-off would make it difficult to address. On Tuesday evening Mr Kiprono Kittony, the Media Owners Association (MOA) chairman, said a June 2014 date would provide more time to have discussions with the government over issues they don’t agree with.
“The change of dates will allow us to address certain issues the government has not addressed. First of all, as media owners, we have had issues with foreign ownership of signal distributors. This will allow us to address that.
“Secondly, we are not satisfied that there are enough STBs (Set Top Boxes) out there. We don’t want to disenfranchise Kenyans when the deadline arrives in December. If you look at Tanzania for example, they have had a similar narrative, which we are trying to avoid.”
An October notice by Dr Matiangi had indicated that Nairobi would be the first to be switched off from December 13, 2013 followed by Mombasa, Malindi, Nyeri, Meru, Kisumu, Webuye, Kisii, Nakuru and Eldoret from March 30, 2014. The entire country was to be switched off by June 30 next year.
A switch-off of analogue broadcast would require that all firms providing terrestrial TV transmissions in VHF or UHF frequencies would be forced to move their transmission to digital signal.
That means that a viewer at home would have to buy a digitiser, often called a Set Top Box. Media owners and Cofek had earlier argued that the boxes are still too expensive for most Kenyans and therefore, many would be locked out of the new venture.
MOA have been demanding for the third digital signal distribution license under the Associations’ MOA's Digital Connect Company. The Association was denied the first two, one of which went to a Chinese firm.