Top Kenyan media firms fight digital TV migration

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenyans are already enjoying the fruits of digital TV broadcasting despite fervent war from three top media houses in Kenya who want the process delayed.

Beginning of this month, Kenya officially started its march into digital broadcasting starting with capital Nairobi and its environs.

The Standard group (owning Kenya Television Network-KTN), Nation Media group (owning Nation Television-NTV) and Royal Media Services (owning Citizen Television), filed a case at the Supreme Court to block the switch off date for Nairobi set on December 31st, but did not manage to totally block the digital migration.

The Communications Authority proceeded to order all stations to shut off their analogue systems and move to digital broadcasting that began on the night of December 31st.

TV firms including pay TV companies like MultiChoice Kenya, Zuku, and StarTimes are already competing to sell digital TV decoders to viewers as the rush continues.

However the Supreme Court on Monday stopped the Communications Authority of Kenya from switching off the analogue frequencies of the Nation Media Group, Standard Group and Royal Media Services.

Other media firms operating in the country are however relaying their TV signals via digital platform.

According to Mutua Muthusi, Director, Consumer and Public Affairs at the Communication Authority, by February 2nd all other major towns in Kenya will have to abandon their analogue system as the rest of the country will go digital by the end of March.

From the court papers seen by BiztechAfrica, the thee media houses want to be given two months simulcast period during which their television channels will be available on both the analogue and digital platforms before they fully switch-off.

They are also seeking the two months from the date the frequencies will be allocated to them to order, import and install transmitters, antennas and other equipment necessary to roll out their digital transmission infrastructure as well as order and import set-top boxes.

 “One frequency that was allocated to the media houses by (the) CA is not enough to appropriately cover Nairobi and its environs, which requires at least three frequencies,” said lawyer Paul Muite, representing the media houses.

Nation Media Group, Standard Group and Royal Media Services want the CA to allocate three UHF frequencies that are not being used for analogue broadcasting, one for each of the three designated digital television broadcasting sites in Nairobi.

According to an article in The East African, a sister publication to NTV and Daily Nation, the three media houses under a consortium they are calling Africa Digital Network, control 90 per cent of the media in the country consisting of "87 per cent market share in TV, 80 per cent in radio and 98 per cent in print." This is expected to make them a force to reckon with in the digital migration.

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