Pay TV could herald end of free-to-air television, warns Cofek

Kenya’s consumer advocacy group the Consumers Confederation of Kenya (Cofek) has warned that, with the high influx of pay TV service providers in the country, free-to-air (FTA) channels could soon be outdated.

According to Cofek, this is imminent if unsuspecting TV owners fail to pay for subscription fees charged by the pay TV companies to access television services.

Cofek said that pay TV operators in the country, including GoTv, DStv, Zuku and StarTimes, continue to bundle the FTA channels in their bouquets, yet viewers are blocked from accessing these channels following non-remittal of the subscription fees, which should not be the case.

“Pay TV operators are confusing people by pooling FTA channels as part of their bouquet to sell their services,” said Stephen Mutoro, secretary general of Cofek. “I am afraid there may be limited options for a consumer when the analogue signal is switched off and they cannot sustain the monthly subscriptions. They might have to go back to shops and get an FTA compliant set top box.”

To avoid falling into this trap, Cofek is advising television owners to opt for the FTA set-top boxes currently in the market, as they do not require a monthly subscription fee to access the service.

In the meantime, Cofek is still holding discussions with the government through the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to ensure FTA decoders retail at under KShs1,000 (US$12) each instead of the current KSh5,000 to KSh10,000 (approx US$58 to US$116).

CCK, as the country’s telecommunications regulator, is also engaging the pay TV service providers to allow viewers to access FTA channels without having to pay the subscription fees.

“The Commission is looking at the configuration of Pay TV set-top boxes with the view of exploring the possibility of the same being able to access FTA channels, which is not possible at the moment,” CCK said.

Pay TV service providers are against this move, arguing they will not make any money in the event that they allow subscribers to access the FTA channels while defaulting in subscription fee.

Posted in: Telecoms

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