Digital Television Broadcasting Activated In Kenya, More Stations Join Market
The much anticipated digital video broadcasting in Kenya has started airing and as a sign of things to come, more television stations line up to join the market, including two new international ones.
In a bid to catch up with its deadline of switching to digital broadcasting by June this year, the government has activated a platform for transmitting digital video broadcasting (DVB-T2) technology through its signal distributor Signet.
The DVB T2 signal is now on air in Nairobi, and will soon be available in other parts of the country according to the Communications Commission of Kenya.
Around Nairobi, the signal can be received in Ngong, Kajiado, parts of Machakos, Kiambu, Thika, parts of Muranga, and some parts of Embu. By July 2012, the DVB T2 digital TV signal would be available in 70% of the country starting with Mombasa and Kisumu.
The government at the same time seems to be hinting that the deadline for the switchover might not be achievable anymore after its projections pointed to the end of the year and probably beyond. The International Telecommunication Union set 2015 as the year when the analog signals will be shut down globally to give way to digital broadcasting.
The Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication, Dr. Bitange Ndemo also said that the importation of analog TV sets would be banned starting July. Consumers will therefore have to buy new TV sets that support the new technology or use a DVB T2 converter.
Currently the TV set top box retails at a price of Ksh. 5,000, an amount most households in the country cannot afford thereby raising fears that many would be shut out of the TV services.
“We are in talks with Treasury to remove taxes charged on set-top boxes so that the price of set-top boxes comes down and expand penetration of digital TVs,” Ndemo said.
The failure by the government to meet its own target for completing the switch has been attributed largely to a budget shortfall. The government had allocated Ksh. 650 million to the project while the full switch requires Ksh. 3 billion. The funds are supposed to be utilized for building towers, upgrading equipment and consumer education.
Further delay for the switch was occasioned by the government giving wrong information to set top box importers, leaving several of these gadgets in the market obsolete even before they got off the shelves. Consumers of these converters, called DVB-T1 have to either upgrade them or buy the new DVB-T2 gadgets.
Meanwhile, the Nation Media Group has launched a new television station even as the TV market in Kenya prepares for two additional international entrants. The new station, QTV was launched Wednesday and will provide most of its programs in Swahili, breaking new ground in an English dominated broadcasting industry.
The move has however been interpreted by many as a convenient step to grab an early lead ahead of Al Jazeera, a Qatar based International news channel that has already set up base in Nairobi and plans to start broadcasting in Swahili this year. The station, to be named Al Jazeera Kiswahili will broadcast in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Programming in Swahili seems to be gaining currency fast since France 24, a French international news station started Swahili programming years back in Dar es Salaam with much success.
China Central Television (CCTV) Africa, a Chinese owned broadcaster chose Nairobi to be the base of its first ever news production centre outside China and has since last year been recruiting local talent to join its team. It started broadcasting in January from the capital, Nairobi amid dim media coverage. Some of the local talent that have been lured there include prominent names like Mark Maasai, Beatrice Marshall, Peninah Karibe, Robert Soi and Emmanuel Talam.
“I strongly believe this will prove to be a wise decision for having set up this regional centre. CCTV will bring the beautiful images of Kenya and Africa as a whole to the rest of the world,” said Sun Yu Sheng, the Vice President of CCTV.
Already 11 channels, including broadcasters such as Nation Media Group, KTN and Kiss TV are on the Signet platform. The other licensed digital signal distribution firm, China’s Pan Africa Network Group, is yet to roll out its network.