Broadcasters boycott KBC digital deal

December 6, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – Broadcasters within the Media Owners Association (MOA) have from Monday suspended the provision of their signals to the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) for digital testing.

MOA Vice Chairperson Kiprono Kitony said at a press conference that this followed commercialisation of the signals by the State broadcaster.

The provision of signals is in line with the migration of broadcasting to digital platform by 2012.

“The government through the CCK (Communications Commission of Kenya) requested all broadcasters to make available their signals to Signet (an auxiliary company) through the KBC for testing purposes,” Mr Kitony explained.

“Emerging information suggests on-going deals that fly in the face of the transparency criteria involving allocation of digital frequencies to private companies, some of which have already started to exploit these assets commercially,” he said.

The media owners have now demanded that the entire migration process be suspended pending investigations into whether public interest had been violated and a fresh process that protected public interest was agreed upon.

“During the transition period, digital frequencies are a limited resource and priority should be given to free-to-air channels so as to encourage take up of digital TV without putting a monthly financial burden on viewers who will already have to bear the cost of acquiring a set-top box,” said the MOA vice chairman.

“Digital frequencies are a public asset and the allocation must be made in a fair and transparent manner consistent with the public procurement and disposal acts,” he added.

The media owners noted that the Ministry of Information and Communications had a policy responsibility and obligation to consult stakeholders in all matters that would influence media operations including how the digital migration would be implemented without infringing on any party’s interests.

The digital signal distribution during the migration process is the sole responsibility of the government through a subsidiary company, Signet, but the media owners said that there was an apparent deviation from this framework in which media owners were asked to offer content for testing purposes.

“Unlicensed broadcasters mostly foreign owned offering pay channels are now hiring digital frequencies on the test platform from KBC. These foreign broadcasters have been given preference over a long list of free to air Kenyan broadcasters who applied for frequencies and have been waiting for years,” Mr Kitony stated.

In December last year, the government launched the first phase of digital TV broadcasting at a cost of Sh200 million as it sought to beat a global 2015 deadline for all countries to migrate from analogue signals.

Digital broadcasting is expected to introduce an era of better quality transmission and reception of TV channels.


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