Kenya to issue third broadcast signal licence

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya’s Media Owners Association may finally have chance to own a third licence for signal distribution in the digital broadcasting era.

This follows government’s decision to only open a new tender to local investors.

Meeting a section of media owners and Communication Commission of Kenya in Nairobi, ICT Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i said the Government was ready to engage the broadcast industry in resolving challenges facing this sector.

“We are going to give a third license…when we do the tender for the third licence; we will insist that it will be for local investors,” said Dr Matiang’i.

The move may also restore sanity in the analogue to digital broadcasting journey, which had nearly been stalled when the existing two signal distribution firms to charged viewers even for Free to Air (FTA) channels.

A section of broadcasters withdrew content in protest against pay TV firms that were charging viewers to access FTA channels.

In a 2011 bidding for digital signal distribution, the local broadcasters lost out to state-owned SIGNET and Chinese Pan African Network Group.

This saw the media owners decrying the move, saying it would stifle media freedom, and forcing the government to decide to issue a third license.

Dr. Matiang’i appealed to broadcasters who had pulled out content from the digital platform to restore it so that consumers do not lose faith in the migration process.

The media industry complained to the Cabinet Secretary about unclear interconnection charges, their exclusion from the digital distribution business and sale of their content by third parties. 

Dr. Matiangi said discussions between the government and the media industry would commence immediately to iron out differences that are threatening to derail the migration process.

Kenya had earlier set December 2012 as the switch off deadline but a pending court case by Consumer Federation of Kenya has since stalled the process.

The Cabinet Secretary called on industry players to adhere to the law, and directed the industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya, to enforce the law without fear or favour.

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