Consumers’agony as Media Houses and Paytv Firms fight over digital broadcasting – Kenya

TV viewers in Kenya are in dilemma as pay TV firms and local media houses engage in battle over digital broadcasting.

Kenya partially switched to digital broadcasting on December 31 2014, a process that saw Communication Authority of Kenya cut off analogue signal in Nairobi save that for three media houses which moved to court to challenge the decision as they appealed for more time.

The matter is still at the Supreme Court awaiting determination. The latest controversy has arisen from the fact that pay TV firms GOtv and StarTimes are airing broadcasts of the three media houses, namely KTN, NTV and Citizen TV both on their free-to-air and pay TV decoders.

StarTimes and GOtv have been advertising and selling their products assuring consumers that they will watch the three channels, which are popular in Kenya for free.

The three media houses term the move illegal noting that the pay TV firms do not have rights to profit from their content. The media houses have joined hands to import decoders that will exclusively air their channels.

The pay TV channels, however, have defended the move to broadcast the three channels, noting that the law allows them.

And as the battle rages and is set to end up in court in the next few days, consumers are at a loss.

A sizeable number of them have acquired set-top-boxes from the two pay TV firms to watch the free-to-air channels that broadcast news and local programs.

“I bought about a month ago a GOtv decoder and one of the things that made me buy the gadget was that I was going to watch the free-to-air channels. But as things stand, I may be cut off,” Collins Orecha, a private secondary school library worker in Nairobi, said on Sunday.

Orecha noted that the media houses will move to court and stop GOtv or StarTimes from airing their content as the matter is heard.

“Before the case is determined, in months, consumers would have suffered because they will not get value for their money.” The librarian ruled out buying a second set-top-box to watch the local channels.

“When I was buying the pay TV decoder, I knew there were monthly charges, but I went for it because I wanted to watch both international and local channels. I do not know what I will do?”

The dilemma also faces consumers who bought free-to-air set-top- boxes as the signals on the decoders are transmitted by Pan African Group (PANG), the owners of StarTimes, and Signet, co- owned by public broadcaster KBC and GOtv, owned by MultiChoice.

“If they fail to agree and switch off, we will not watch television. The government should have ironed out such differences before switching off the analogue signal to safeguard consumers,” noted Sarah Njogu, an office administrator.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi noted that what is happening could have been avoided if wider consultations were done before the switch off.

“The matter over digital migration has been in and out of court for long, stalling the migration process. This is not good for consumers and Kenya. The best thing is for the warring factions to sit down and negotiate what is best for them and their audiences; otherwise, people may be forced to buy more than one set-top-box,” he said.

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Consumers’agony as Media Houses and Paytv Firms fight over digital broadcasting – Kenya
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