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Monday, December 22, 2014


Fred Matiang'i, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, sat on the government table during the launch of the consumer education campaign for TV digital migration being carried out by the Communications Authority of Kenya.

But he might as well have been sitting on the "stakeholders" table where media owners' interests sat.

Giving the keynote speech while observing the challenges that have faced the migration process which was meant to take place exactly one year ago, the CS attacked the regulator for being insensitive to the needs of stakeholders.

He said everyone's interests must be looked at in future when making policy to avoid confrontations and emphasized that we must support the local broadcasting industry.

From Rose Kimotho to Faridah Karoney and all the other media interests in the room, this must have sounded like music.

After all, aren't these the same media interests that held up the process of migration by rushing to court last year when Justice David Majanja ruled to halt the process?

The CS is right that the interests of stakeholders should be looked into but exactly which stakeholders?

Sitting on their own, was a group of men led by a bespectacled elderly fellow who it turned out are the "jua kali" sector....the independent set top box vendors. These guys import their own set top boxes which are free to air.

They have been burnt seriously with all the back and forth of court cases, reversal of decisions by government when they had already sunk money into production of boxes only for the government to say it had decided to use a different format and so on.

Between them, one fellow confided, they had spent about Sh200million and a lot of it was unrecoverable.

But despite their pleas to be given some consideration after such losses the CS offered little beyond saying those selling uncertified boxes would be arrested.

The other investors are the content providers such as Multichoice and Startimes. They also have spent millions preparing for launch, acquiring content and so on and had factored in a whole year of recruiting subscribers but were caught up in the delays occasioned by the case.

The CS did not mention them,

In the meantime, the media owners did not lose a cent in revenues as the case dragged on, but continued to mint their advertising dollars on analogue signals.

To aggravate matters further, while holding the rest of the country hostage, they have been accused of refusing to carry consumer education information on the digital migration, an issue that should have been raised during the court case to demonstrate their lack of good faith.

So it was quite surprising to hear the CS talk literally like the media owners are the ones who had been wronged when they have cost so many investors a lot of money.

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