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Digital migration: Kenyans to lose free to air TV rights

03 January 2014, 11:00 Victor Tinto

Nairobi - Kenyans are in for a surprise after the Communications Commision of Kenya CCK granted pay TV providers leeway to charge for free to air television channels.

This is after the CCK dropped a requirement that the free to air channels be a must on every pay television platform.

It thus means that after a two week grace period which has been granted by the CCK, pay TV service providers can switch off local free to air channels if they are not in receipt of monthly payment as is the case with normal pay bouquets.

The scenario will mean that Kenyans can only access free to air channels for free by buying a specific free to air set top boxes which allow access to the said channels whilst accruing no charges.

Normally, subscribers are usually allowed access to the local television stations with or without payment of the monthly subscription fee to the service providers.

The move by the CCK will likely cause more confusion ahead of the planned analogue switch off which is set for the end of February.

And it will cause concern for media houses that have for long argued for the subsidization of costs related with the migration to enable Kenyans move on easily.

Paul Muite, the lawyer representing media houses in court on the television digital migration case has called on the government to give local broadcasting companies digital licenses and frequencies.

Muite says that the government's move to give the Chinese StarTimes Company digital licenses for local media houses to liaise with in airing their broadcasts would result into huge losses since they have invested a lot in their firms.

"Local media houses such as Royal Media, Standard Media Group and Nation Media Group fear losing over KES 40 billion they have invested in their companies if the government does not provide them with the digital licenses and frequencies," said Muite.

"Also engaging another party to air media houses broadcasts is contrary to Article 34 of the Constitution which outlines media ownership and citizens' right to access to information. Media houses have no trust in a foreign company to air their relevant broadcasts," he added.

An appeal by media houses on the planned migration will be heard end of February, even though the government is urging Kenyans to plan in advance.

- News24

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