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Kenya’s Digital Migration Saga Continues

by Caroline Vutagwa
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The digital migration in Kenya is now becoming an unending soap opera where local television stations are being persuaded to take the migration licenses.

Indeed Kenya is leading in technology in East Africa but it will be a matter of time before the likes of Rwanda and Tanzania catch up, because this two neighbors are entering into their respective second phases in migrating from analogue to digital television platforms.

As of now, Kenya’s fate remain uncertain incapacitated by local media houses to be ‘handed’ a third digital television distribution license despite having been invited to tender for the second license but lost after failing to assemble a competent consortium to meet the set minimum requirements for the capital intensive investment.

This has resulted to a battle of wits as three media houses – Citizen, NTV and KTN – engaged the industry regulator CCK and the Government in a court battle that has for the third time left thousands of Kenyans without access to the three local channels on their decoders as the they seek to arm twist the public into sympathizing with their quest to be exempted from Government procurement processes and be handed a third license.

Opinion is divided as to when the transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting should take place with those in favor of digital migration decrying further delay in light of the approaching worldwide migration deadline set for June 2015 and those supporting the delay adamant about getting a distribution license and allowing Kenyans more time to purchase digital viewing devices.

Ironically the same propagators of this delay continue to deny Kenyans access to the said channels despite their advocacy to allow for more time for acquisition of the type approved set top boxes. Isn’t it hypocritical to call for more time to acquire the devices while withdrawing the three channels from the same devices you want Kenyans to acquire?

Main steam Free to Air set top boxes and the digital enabled television sets currently do not have access to the three local channels after they were withdrawn from the digital television platforms which casts a shadow of doubt upon their sentiment indicating an intention to keep serving Kenyans in this period leading up to digital migration.

The conduct of the said channels can literally be interpreted to denying Kenyans access to information an act that goes against the true spirit of the constitution. It is a high time that Kenyans seek a tangible explanation as to why they continue being held hostage by partisan interests.

The advent of digital television will open a new world of exciting television channels as it will free the requisite spectrum for an array of local channels. Currently on analogue platform, the spectrum held by a single local station such as Citizen, NTV or KTN can comfortable host up to 20 channels on digital platform! Are they afraid of the resulting competition?

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