NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 – Three media houses engaged in a digital migration dispute with the government Thursday made fresh attempts to end the deadlock which has seen them remain off air for a better part of the week.,
The media houses held a meeting with Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi in a last minute attempt to unlock the TV switch off row.
Thursday morning, the media executives, S.K Macharia of Royal Media Services, Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei and Nation Media Group Chairman Wilfred Kiboro presented their case before a joint Senate committee comprising the Legal Affairs and Human Rights committee and the Broadcast and Library Committee in a bid to get support in their proposal to have the digital migration postponed to a later date.
“We told them it is neither fair nor logical to expect us to import transmitters within 15 days. These are not things you get off the shelf in the supermarket, they are specific to the frequency. Our transmitters are being manufactured in Los Angeles, and we are not the only people ordering, we are waiting in the queue, so we asked them to give us one month to ensure there were also enough Set Top Boxes to ensure there were enough viewers,” said Kiboro.
He said the companies fully relied on advertising revenue and that is why they needed to ensure they had enough STBs to guarantee more viewers which then attracts advertisers.
He lamented that the five days the TV stations have been off air, they have incurred huge losses since advertisers with whom they had signed contracts were reviewing their agreements and requesting for refunds.
“Migration is a process, it’s not about switching off analogue and switching on digital, it is about people having enough Set Top Boxes which guarantees a wider audience,” explained Kiboro.
“We have since made financial arrangements for anybody who is not able to buy our Set Top Boxes, for Sh2,500. They can be assisted so that everybody moves, this is what digital migration is about, having access to the televisions, not just switching off analogue.” added Kiboro.
The media owners have since asked for an extension of the migration period to May 30 saying they cannot meet their earlier requested date of April 30 due to delays by the court process.
They also want CAK to return the analogue equipment it seized from them.
Members present raised several questions over why the stations were stalling the process, with Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o asking the media houses to first defend themselves from accusations that they have monopolistic tendencies and engage in unfair competition by locking out upcoming media houses.
When asked why they chose to withdraw their broadcast from PANG and SIGNET and also DStv, they said they did not have an agreement with them and more so they had already lost their audience as most could not access the pay TV decoders.
Macharia accused the government of failing to ensure smooth transition into the digital platform saying the task has instead been left to private owners.
“It looks like we as private companies have taken the responsibility of ensuring digital migration,” said Macharia.
Matiang’i and Wangusi on Tuesday told the parliamentary committee on Energy and Communication that the media owners are to blame for the standoff saying there was no turning back on digital migration.