, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – Seven companies offering commercial Free-to-Air (FTA) digital television services have been granted licenses by the Communication Authority of Kenya, since the digital migration started late last year.
The licensees include Zanira Company Limited, Akili Network Limited, The World Music Limited, Namba One TV Limited, Seventh Day Adventist-East Kenya Union Conference, The entertainment Channel Limited and North Eastern Media & Telecommunications Limited.
“By getting licensed, a commercial FTA TV will provide clear, unencrypted digital TV Signals, enabling any person with the appropriate equipment to receive the signal,” explained Communications Authority of Kenya’s Director General Francis Wangusi during award of the licenses.
The license will also enable consumers to access content without paying a subscription fee apart from the one-off fee rendered to purchase the Set Top Box.
Additionally, the licenses ensure that the Set Top Boxes meet programming standards in their content. These will ensure that children, for instance, are protected from inappropriate programming. It will also ensure that the local creative arts industry is supported while also ensuring that Kenya’s culture is portrayed in an accurate and balanced way.
Prior to issuance of licenses, players have been operating in a dual licensing environment whereby the ministry responsible for information issued permits. On the other hand, the ICT regulator’s remit in broadcasting was limited to planning and assignment of frequencies.
According to Wangusi, the dual licensing had challenges. For starters, there was lack of coordination between the respective authorities responsible for issuing permits and frequencies. This led to a situation where the number of individuals and entities issued with permits far exceeded the available broadcasting spectrum.
“It is partly due to these challenges that the government initiated both policy and legal reforms in the broadcasting sector with a view to bringing the licensing functions under one entity, which would also be responsible for setting and enforcement of programming content standards,” said Wangusi.
The Information and Communication Act states that it is illegal to provide any form of broadcasting service in Kenya without a license with the offenders attracting a fine not exceeding Sh1million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
Progress of Digital Migration
Going by the data submitted by the Authority, progress has been recorded as far as the digital migration is concerned.
According to Wangusi, close to 2.5million Set Top Boxes have been sold so far matching, if not surpassing, the initial levels achieved prior to the migration.
“We are witnessing signal distributors expanding their services into areas that had no analogue televisions before. We therefore expect more growth,” he said.
The Authority also stated that it is currently processing seventy two commercial FTA TV applications.
Additionally, Communication Authority of Kenya is processing the applications of four Cable TV, three Pay TV and one Community TV among others.