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Govt to license third digital signal distributor

NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 24 – The Ministry of Information and Communication has decided to issue a third distributor with a licence for digital signals.

The Communications Commission of Kenya together with the ministry has written to the Media Owners Association (MOA) informing them to form a consortium that will be awarded the third Digital Distribution licence.

This comes after numerous complaints over how a consortium of Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services missed being awarded the second licence that instead went to a Chinese firm, Pan African Network Group.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said that the ministry had decided to take affirmative action and ensure broadcasters were also awarded a licence to distribute the digital signal as the country switches from the current analogue platform.

“I would like to appeal to broadcasters that we do not get any resistance on this, because they also know the importance of moving to the digital platform without any hiccups,” Dr Ndemo said at meeting with members of MOA.

The Information Ministry established a Digital Migration Committee to oversee all processes including the licensing of backbone infrastructure developers.

The committee had initially offered a licence to media owners with interest in the broadcast sub-sector as a means of mitigating their investments.

However, as soon as the licence was offered, the media houses disagreed on how to share this national resource.

Dr Ndemo said that this time round, MOA members had given an undertaking to work together prompting the ministry to make special consideration to award them with a licence that they will share amongst themselves.

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“I need not reiterate that the digital migration is certainly a welcome development both to the consumer and the broadcasting industry alike,” he said.

Acting CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said no shareholding structure had been agreed upon, and instead pointed out MOA would have to put its house in order on how the allotments are made.

“If they don’t agree then it will be unfortunate,” Mr Wangusi said.

He said once the MOA had come up with a working formula, a licence would be issued within 45 days.

Introduction of private signal distributors is seen as one of the reasons to help expand digital migration infrastructure.

Kenya has a June 2012 cut off date to switch to digital broadcasting ahead of the global date three years later.

The first licence was issued to Signet, a subsidiary of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, which has also been charged to spearhead the roll out of the digital infrastructure in phases having completed the pilot phase in Nairobi.

The PS gave an assurance that most parts of the country will be covered by the end of the year, giving a 70 percent country coverage target by June 2012.

He said the ministry had revised its strategy and said remote areas such as Northern Kenya would be reached through satellite transmission.

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Estimates had put the total cost of rolling out the services countrywide to Sh4 billion but the PS expects this figure to drop significantly.

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