KENYA: Migration from Analogue to Digital TV Faces Hurdles
Submitted by IQ4News on Mon, 17/12/2012 - 12:36pm
By Joab Apollo
As Kenya styles itself as a technological pace-setter in East Africa, the intended migration from analogue to digital broadcasting faces resistance, as consumers argue it is costly. They cite expensive set-top boxes and terrestrial aerials required for the full operation of the Digital Terrestrial TVs as the reason they are up in arms against the idea.
Regional Radio communication Conference (RRC), working under the aegis of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2006, resolved that all countries should migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting by 17 June, 2015.
Lobby groups want the government to stick to the RCC’s deadline to enable people to adequately prepare for the switch off, but Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication believe that any delay would be costly.
This has prompted broadcasting consumers in Kenya, through their umbrella body, the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), to move to court seeking a halt to the process.
“The respondents have failed to address the need to offer subsidy on the set-top boxes to ease consumer burden,” said the group.
“The government’s move is not only unreasonable but expensive to consumers, most of whom do not have surplus funds to purchase the required set-top boxes to shift to digital television frequency signals,” the group added.
In addition, Cofek is fronting a petition, which has so far attracted 67,209 signatures from Kenyans dissatisfied by the move.
The government has set up elaborate plans in motion with a planned roll out of high-speed internet connectivity on the 4G platform. The connectivity, which costs Ksh.42 billion, is supported by leading mobile telephone providers in the country.
According to the Information and Communication Permanent Secretary, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the switch off offers Kenyans a chance to move forward technologically, by offering them quality content. He has maintained that the government would not change the dates as it would heap a lot of financial burden on investors. The government also believes that the move will keep Kenya in the same pace with other East African countries like Tanzania and Uganda, which have also set the same date for their switchover.
This, has however, not gone down well with most Kenyans. They read mischief in the hurried migration, arguing it is an avenue by a certain clique in the government to benefit from tenders.
“If the internationally recognized deadline is 2015, why then would our government push as to the corner when we are not ready for it?” posed Edward Kahindi, a second-hand cloth seller in Nairobi.
“They should know that 80% of people living in Nairobi cannot afford the expensive decoders that come with migration to digital broadcasters. We are a small economy,” he added.
For Enoch Mong’are, the move is likely to deny most Kenyans an opportunity to follow political events a head of the forthcoming general elections.
“A good number of Kenyans do not even own television sets, let alone affording the set-top boxes. They watch news in restaurants and roadside kiosks. Doing that will deny them a chance to thoroughly vet their leaders and make informed choices in the elections,” he told IQ4News.
There are those who have welcomed the idea, saying the new platform offers quality as opposed to analogue broadcasting.
“We must embrace quality since cheap is very expensive. Digital broadcasting will give room for local content to thrive. In addition, it gives viewers an opportunity to view more channels,” Elizabeth Karimi, an IT consultant in Nairobi, told IQ4News.
The Ministry of Information has also stated that people would not need to buy new televisions as the current TV sets in Kenya can properly receive Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) by the use of a set-top box. There were fears from a section of Kenyans that it would force them to buy new TV sets.
In June, 2012, Kenya banned the importation of analogue televisions, ushering a new era of digital broadcasting.
Presently, a set-top box cost between Ksh. 2500-Ksh.5300.
“I will need to sell my TV which costs the same amount to buy one. They are very expensive for most of us,” said Peter Ngangi.
(Editing by Yemisi Akinbobola)
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