The digital migration debate has been in news reports in the past week , after the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) revoked the digital broadcast license of the leading broadcasters in the country; NTV, KTN and Citizen TV. What happened is that the said broadcast stations were found guilty of airing an advert that the Authority termed as misleading to the public and “in gross violation of the legal and regulatory framework governing the sector”.
The three media houses have come out fighting the decision which they see as handing broadcast control to experienced multinationals. Truth be said, a lot has been invested towards making the analogue to digital broadcasting a success both by the Government and private sector players and it is therefore critical to appreciate the milestones achieved this far through their combined efforts; but on the other hand it is hard to figure out why our very own broadcasters cannot be given first priority on issuing digital channels.
Every Government that comes into power seeks to provide an enabling operating environment for both local and multinational companies to flourish in their operations, this not only assists the Government to grow the economy but also provides opportunities for the citizenry to explore their talents and improve their livelihoods.
Local and Multinational companies should co-exist while competing favourably as opposed to being seen as bitter rivals who are eating into each other’s space. Recent insinuations that the multinationals operating in the digital broadcasting sector have undue advantage is meant rally Kenyans against the said multinationals while diluting their contribution in the country.
This choice in television viewing will grow tremendously once the country transitions to the digital television platform. Investors in the broadcast sector will no longer be required to set up capital intensive infrastructure across the country to reach the masses as the licensed broadcast signal distributors (Pan Africa Networks Group and Signet) have already put the requisite platforms in place.
What this means to the mwananchi is that very soon, there will be exponential growth in the number of television stations in Kenya some which will broadcast in various local dialects and genres as investors will only need to develop content and are dully hosted by either of the two licensed broadcast signal distributors while equally enjoying national reach similar to existing broadcast stations.
It is this freedom of choice that is already being extended by the multinational broadcasters who have built a network to carry a multitude of channels that gives Kenyans a rich choice in television viewing at very affordable costs of acquiring the set top boxes.
This has also seen the introduction of both the Pay Television and Free to Air decoders ensuring the consumer can choose either to acquire a Pay or a free to view option depending on their television viewing preference. Kenyans who prefer to enjoy international content are free to acquire the Pay TV set top box whereas those who intend to continue enjoying free local channels in digital quality can acquire the free to air one.
A lot of effort has gone into educating the public as to the difference between the two set top boxes to ensure the consumer is able to make an informed choice and acquire one that will meet their individual preference with the trends so far indicating the majority of Kenyans can differentiate between the two.
The multinationals in the broadcast sector have over the years equally encouraged technology transfer as more Kenyans learn from their Global experience and acquire world class expertise that is employed locally. This has seen engineers, system controllers and producers grow their know how and further build on the Kenyan expertise in the sector.
Employment creation is equally a significant contribution by the said broadcasters where thousands of Kenyans continue to build their careers as the companies grow their operations in the country. Their investment has equally established successful entrepreneurs thereby extending the gains beyond direct employment to supporting thriving businesses across the country.
It is undeniable that as a country, the broadcast sector has come a long way, it is therefore important to safeguard individual gains achieved so far while collectively attending to challenges faced in an effort to get the best from the opportunities within the sector.