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State told to end digital standoff

Governors have told the National Government to end the stalemate over the switch-off of three leading TV stations.

Council of Governors Chairman Isaac Ruto said by switching off NTV, KTN and Citizen, the Communications Authority of Kenya had limited citizens’ access to information and affected business.

“Kenyans are hungry for information. Advertisers want value for their money by doing business with the top stations. The government must allow the stations to be on air as they sort themselves out,” he said.

The regulator switched off the three stations — which control over 80 per cent of local viewership — three weeks ago, disregarding a Supreme Court order reinstating their digital broadcasting licence.

The broadcasters are licensed as free-to-air, meaning consumers should continue viewing them whether they have paid subscriptions or not.

In court, the three stations argued that they should have been given more time to import decoders and distribute them.

Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu said pay TV firms should allow local channels to broadcast on their platforms free since they had invested in production.

HEAVY PRICE

“It is unfair to allow some broadcasters to reap where they never sowed,” said Mr Irungu.

His Kirinyaga counterpart Joseph Ndathi accused the regulator of portraying the three broadcasters in bad light instead of protecting them.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony warned African governments to tread carefully when dealing with certain foreign investors, especially in matters of quality and reliability.

“We will pay a very heavy price. Cheap can be very expensive. It is a matter of time before we start regretting,” he said.

Nation Media Group Chief Executive Linus Gitahi said the broadcasters had no problem with their content airing on pay TV channels but disagreed that consumers be charged for it.

He said it was unfair for pay TV providers to ride on the popularity of Citizen, NTV and KTN content to make money.

“We have not refused to migrate. All we are saying is that Kenyans should be allowed to watch free-to-air channels without paying a subscription,” he said.