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Thursday, Feb 27th

Experts upbeat about Kenya’s digital TV switch


Digital broadcasting could offer Kenyan content producers more space to try out different television formats for viewers, experts have said.

Kenya’s switchover to digital broadcasting is planned to start on September 15 this year. The planned switch to digital follows a series of stuttering starts though, as lobby group Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) submitted a last-minute court bid last year to stop the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) from going ahead with the action.

However, an agreement was reached by all concerned parties earlier this year and the country, as a result, is preparing to make the switch in September.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requires that all countries around the world switch from an analogue to a digital broadcasting signal by 2015.

And East Africa television experts, speaking at the East African Communications Organisations (EACO) Congress and Exhibition in Kenya last week, were upbeat about the prospects for digital TV in countries such as Kenya.

Risper Muthamia, who is the regional manager for MNet in Kenya, has explained that there could be greater demand for local television productions as more channels may enter the market.

“Digital broadcasting will create a great space for content producers to even produce in local languages,” Muthamia said.

She added that it is ‘surprising’ that only Tanzania is producing movies and television programmes in Swahili on the DStv Africa Magic channel.

Her sentiments were echoed by Annemarie Meijer, who is the key account director for Intelsat in Kenya.

“The use of satellite can enable broadcaster have a mix of local and international channels,” Meijer said.

Meijer went on to urge African governments to embrace direct to home broadcasting (DTH) that will enable people in rural areas to get digital television rather than rely on set top boxes.

“The government can sponsor DTH satellites to cover those who do not have set top boxes,” she added.

She also urged African broadcasters to invest in buying satellites to help various regional broadcasters share information. This could help African media houses to share African stories rather than sourcing it from international players such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), she said.

“Implementation of shared satellites can enable local content reach further,” she commented.

Daniel Obam, communications radio technology expert at the National Communication Secretariat in Kenya, said the Kenyan government is contemplating how to reduce the price of set top boxes.

Obam also said that the government is engaging private digital broadcasters not to charge free to air local channels.

The cabinet secretary for information, communication and technology in Kenya, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, agreed on this point.

“The creation of local content, presents opportunities for our people to leverage on ICTs for efficient production in their various activities; thus, participating in wealth creation and poverty alleviation.”

The government has put a standard on local content in local broadcasting stations at 60%.

Muthamia from MNet told broadcasters to know what the audiences want.

“Who is my audience, what are they looking for? Do a bit of research and get feedback from your audiences,” she added.

Muthamia also advised content producers to find out what format works for their audiences.

Meanwhile, Meijer said that issues that governments on the continent should tackle include sorting out technology confusion with signals and set-top boxes; getting through regulatory headaches and navigating the content minefield.

The continent is not faring well in terms of digital migration as the 2015 deadline inches closer. The only East African country that has began the transition is Tanzania despite pressure among lobby groups in that nation to return to the analogue system.


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