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Nairobi TV viewers to stare at blank screens

Residents of Nairobi have until midnight Wednesday to acquire set-top boxes in order to continue enjoying their favourite programmes on television.

The government plans to switch off analogue broadcasting signals in the city and its environs on Wednesday midnight commencing the first phase of the digital migration process.

The switch-over requires consumers to acquire a set-top box which converts digital signals into a format that can be received by analogue sets.

The cheapest free-to-air set-top box currently available in the market retails at about Sh3,800.

EXTEND DEADLINE

Efforts by local broadcasters to have the December 31, 2014 deadline extended to allow them and their customers more time to prepare for the migration have been fruitless.

The government expects to have migrated the whole country by March 31st.

Broadcasters, through the Media Owners Association, had appealed for more time to enable them deploy digital infrastructure and for consumers to buy the set-top boxes.

“We are not going to extend the deadline anymore. We have already done that enough times in the past,” Communications Authority of Kenya director general Francis Wangusi said in an earlier interview.

The second phase, to be implemented on 2nd February 2015, and shall cover Mombasa, Malindi, Nyeri, Meru, Kisumu, Webuye, Kakamega, Kisii, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nyahururu (Nyadundo), Machakos, Narok and Londiani (Rongai).

The third and final phase will take place on 30th March 2015 and shall cover Garissa, Kitui, Lodwar, Lokichogio, Kapenguria, Kabarnet, Migori, Voi (Vuria), Mbwinzau/Kibwezi, Namanga and all other remaining sites.

SUPREME COURT

Media owners are fighting to have the switch-over date for Nairobi to be shifted to April 30th but the regulator has ruled out any extension despite a directive by the Supreme Court that the two sides hold dialogue on the matter.

“We have to migrate to digital broadcast signal. There will be various other digital platforms to air content and the television broadcasters who are not ready can use the available platforms,” Mr Wangusi said.

Local media companies want to be given time to build infrastructure ahead of the roll out.

Last week, MOA chairman Sam Shollei said broadcasters were planning to go back to court seeking an extension of the deadline.

“We were given very clear guidelines by the Supreme Court on of November 26, and if the government remains adamant and switches off our viewers then we will head back to the court for interpretation. There is no hurry to switch off, yet the global deadline is June 2015,” Mr Shollei said.