The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has maintained there will be no third digital licence distributor, crushing media owners’ hopes of a third operator.
Media owners had been lobbying for a third licenced distributor, which they believed would level the playing field for those involved in the upcoming digital migration, and some broadcasters went as far as withdrawing their signals from the free-to-air bouquet.
The CCK is however adamant that only Chinese-owned StarTimes and Signet, a subsidiary of the government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), will hold licences, and went further in calling upon television stations to avail their free-to-air channels signals to pay-TV providers.
“We want to spell this out very clearly, as long as you are free-to-air and we know where your competition is, those channels must be seen by Kenyans as free-to-air,” said CCK director general Francis Wangusi while addressing media and media owners at a forum.
“They will not be part of the bouquet, if they are part of the bouquet then they are must carry channels which means whether somebody pays for your bouquet or not they should be able to see free-to-air channels on your bouquet.”
He said there was lack of sufficient spectrum to be able to give the third signal distribution licence, due to poor infrastructure and high setup costs.
Wangusi also defended the CCK, saying they had asked media owners to come together for a licence but they failed to put together a legitimate consortium.
Wilfred Kiboro of the Media Owners Association (MOA) said both StarTimes and Signet had links to the government and this did not auger well for press freedom for the country.
“We expect the government to show its respect for this freedom by allocating the licence to an independent entity,” he added.