The truth about this “Digital Migration” Saga

In the year 2000, the world decided to migrate from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. several meetings were held under the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

At the Regional Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva (RRC-06) held on June 17, 2006, countries signed an agreement setting June 17, 2015 as the deadline for the switch from digital to
analogue TV technology.

Some countries requested that their deadline be June 17, 2020 and were granted the request. Other who were absent were given 90 days to chose between the two dates failing which, their
deadline would be June 17, 2015.

Countries were free to have effected their migration any time before the deadline. Kenya was present and accepted the June 17, 2015 hence its bound by that agreement.  Every player in the broadcasting industry fully accepts that date.

To activate the process the Kenya government in March 2007, set up the National Digital Migration Task-force (NDMT) to guide the country on the digital migration. The NDMT comprised of the Ministry of Information and Communications, National
Communications Secretariat, Communications Commission of Kenya, Media Owners Association
(MOA), KBC, Media Council of Kenya and Association of Practitioners in Advertising (APA).

The task-force completed its work and handed in a report to the government in October 2007. It recommended that in accordance with the ICT Sector Policy Guidelines of March 2006, practical measures be taken by the government to licence signal distribution providers in Kenya.

In particular, it recommended that:

1. In order to reduce the cost of migration, the existing analogue transmission sites and infrastructure would be used for digital transmission.

2. Based on the government decision to licence KBC as a signal distributor, KBC shall form an independent company to run the signal distribution services in order to avoid conflict of interests or cross subsidies.

3. The current broadcasters will be allowed to form an independent company to run the signal distribution services in order to utilize their existing infrastructure. This company should be independent to avoid conflict of interests or cross
subsidies. This company will be given the first preference to a (second) signal distribution licence.

4. Existing broadcasters who own infrastructure will negotiate commercial terms with the licenced signal distribution provider for transfer of ownership of the infrastructure.

5. A time limit be set after which broadcasters will not be allowed to operate unlicenced signal distribution services.
In February 2008 the government set up a Digital Television Committee (DTC) to implement recommendations of the task-force. As recommended and agreed, the first Broadcast
Signal Distribution (BSD) license was allocated to the State broadcaster KBC without any
controversies. KBC formed the independent company called SIGNET to distribute the signal.
But both KBC and the government were too broke to embark on building the infrastructure.

As will be clear later, KBC’s Signet surrendered its frequencies to MultiChoice for use by its firm GoTV. The story of GoTV is itself an interesting
read.

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To take care of this problem the then Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) decided to allocate a second BSD licence to another company
through competitive bidding.

One of the firms that tendered for the licence was Pan Africa Network Group (PANG-Kenya) a
company owned 100% by Chinese. This is the company that owns Startimes.

Three local media houses Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services

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and Standard Group formed a company called Africa Digital Network which also tendered for the licence. (Read recommendation 3 above)

In what Media Owners still believe was due to manipulation and tempering with their tender
documents, the second BSD was awarded to PANG-Kenya.

KTN

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, NTV, QTV and Citizen were now required to hand over their broadcast content to Signet or
PANG for distribution. This is where trouble started.

The three media houses declared they would do that over their “dead bodies” and for reasons I will be analyzing later. So the argument that the three are opposed digital migration is hogwash and propaganda.

It’s about a simple question which they ask, “In a country that prides of media freedom, democracy and sovereignty should we hand over our
broadcast content to the Kenya government (KBC- Signet) or to China (Pang) for distribution.

They said No. And began the legal process to challenge the allocation of the licence to PANG-Kenya.

Courtesy of Wahome Thuku

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