The drama started when the government announced the turn off of analogue signal in 2013. Sometimes back media houses claimed that the Communications Authority issued licenses under stringent conditions. However, today the Communications Authority of Kenya has issued what is dubbed as the first licensees for the Commercial Free-to-Air TV services in Kenya.
The issuance comes after digital migration. The authority saw the need to govern and provide policies that will enhance delivery of clean content.
The Commercial Free-to-Air TV licenses that were issued sets in motion the long-awaited process of bringing players in the broadcasting market under CA’s regulatory regime as anticipated under ICT sector law. The broadcasting sector has evolved ahead of the law. Mr. Francis Wangusi provided that during the initial dual licensing regime, media houses had no coordination between the respective authorities responsible for issuance of permits and assignment of frequencies that led to a situation where the number of individuals and entities issued with permits far outstripped the available broadcasting spectrum.
The Government decided to bring both policy and legal reforms in the broadcasting sector under one entity due to the challenges that the institutions faced. The Authority is mandated to set and enforce the standards that should be followed in programming.
“The Communications Authority of Kenya is mandated by statute to license all broadcasting service providers, as well as to prescribe and enforce broadcast programming content standards.” Mr. Wangusi said. Section 46C of the revised Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998, it is illegal to provide any form of broadcasting service in Kenya without a license. Contravention of this provision attracts a fine not exceeding Kshs. 1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
“As you may recall during the digital migration campaigns, we promised Kenyans that digital migration would open up a world of opportunities for the country. Prior to the transition, Kenya’s TV broadcast spectrum was fully taken up with no channels to assign to new TV broadcast applicants.” Mr. Wangusi told journalists.
The Authority received and it’s currently processing 72 commercial Free-To-Air TV licenses applications. Other broadcast related license applications being processed include, two for IPTV, three for PayTV, four for Subscription Management Service, two for Landing Rights, one for Community TV and two self-provisioning Broadcast Signal Distributor license.
The commercial FTA television license allows licensees to provide clear, unencrypted digital TV signals, enabling any person with the appropriate equipment to receive the signal. The consumer on the other hand is able to access the content without paying a subscription fee hence the only cost being the initial one-off fee to obtain the receiving equipment, which may be a digital television or analogue TV connected to a set top box.
The Authority provided that the Commercial FTA TV licensees to uphold the local content quotas now standing at 40 percent for the fiscal year 2015/2016. Viewers in Kenya desire local content that reflects themes that are distinctly Kenyan and that will be made possible if all the media houses obtain the licenses.
The first group of applicants that received the Commercial FTA TV licenses were;
- Zanira Company Limited
- Seventh Day Adventist-East Kenya Union Conference
- Akili Networks Limited
- The Entertainment Channel Limited
- The Word Music Limited
- North Eastern Media & Telecommunications Limited
- Namba One TV Ltd
The Authority stipulated that Kenyans desire clean content which is appropriate for family viewing and the Commercial FTA TV licensees will uphold that. Interested applicants were urged to submit applications since the process is still open.