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Digital switch leaves 1.3m Kenyans without TV

Thursday June 18 2015

People shop for digital set-top boxes in Nairobi in 2014. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

People shop for digital set-top boxes in Nairobi in 2014. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

LILIAN OCHIENG'
By LILIAN OCHIENG'
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Over 1.3 million Kenyans are unable to watch their television out of the total 3.5 million households estimated to own televisions, thanks to digital migration.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA ), the industry regulator on Wednesday announced that of the 3.5 million households estimated to own televisions, only 2.2 million have acquired set-top boxes to access digital televisions.

“Slightly more than 1.1 million households are yet to buy the set-top boxes,” the Business Daily quoted CA Director-General Francis Wangusi speaking on the sidelines of the global analogue switch-off media briefing.

The global deadline for digital migration was Wednesday night.

Households assumed to be without connection are in Kitui, Lodwar, Lokichogio, Kapenguria, Kabarnet, Migori, Voi (Vuria), Kibwezi and Namanga. The regulator, however, said the places will be connected within a few months.

Mr Wangusi said poor distribution of set-top boxes was to blame for the television blackout. He added that remote areas are the most affected though government is working on ways of penetrating the region.

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READY TO MIGRATE

That announcement contradicts the authority’s position that Kenya was ready to migrate with the rest of the world.

Media owners have in the recent past argued that there needs to be an extension of the migration time so as to allow people more time to acquire set-top boxes.

Media owners also maintained that the set-top boxes are not affordable and are scarce in remote areas. This in their view should have prompted the CA and Information ministry to act fast in closing the gap.

Stephen Mutoro, the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) boss, however, said the high costs of the set-top boxes were an impediment to safe migration by consumers. Pay TV subscribers have to pay monthly fees of between Sh499 and Sh8,200.

The prices for multi-channel decoders range between Sh1,999 and Sh2,500, while free-to-air set-top boxes cost between Sh3,300 to Sh6,500.

The CA has licensed over 79 types of set-top boxes and the sector has created over 2,500 jobs, according to ICT ministry statistics.

Cofek says the prices of the set-top boxes that have been distributed are unaffordable to low-income earners.