Breakthrough as Kenyan media licensed to distribute own digital TV signal

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya’s journey to digital television broadcasting is finally becoming a reality.

The major hurdle, that has for years delayed the migration, has been overcome with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) awarding licence to the Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and Standard Group through a consortium.

The Cabinet also approved the switch to digital television broadcasting in Nairobi and the rest of the country, and asked the Information minister to begin the migration immediately.

For the three local media owners, they can now start distributing own digital television signals but will need to plan and build infrastructure in 10 key locations ahead of the digital migration.

 “We have requested reasonable time to set up our infrastructure. We will be facilitated to have simulcast (analogue and digital) transmissions to test our signals and market our set-top boxes,” said Nation Media Group Chairman Wilfred Kiboro.

The local broadcasters will become the third digital signal distributors after Signet and Chinese firm Pan African Network Group, which previously held the exclusive distribution rights despite their small market share in the Kenyan television industry.

Kiboro said the three media firms control close to 90 per cent of the Kenya’s television viewership and have the capacity to carry their own signals across the country.

“We are engaging CAK and the government to get more frequencies to cover all the designated digital transmission sites to enable all the citizens of this great country in the 47 counties to watch their popular TV channels,” he said.

In awarding the licence, CAK was complying with the September 29 ruling of the Supreme Court.

The court had ordered the Kenya government to open dialogue with media houses and agree on new switch-over dates as well as possible award of a signal distribution licence.

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