Digital TV migration costs likely to bar the poor
Posted Wednesday, August 1 2012 at 18:19
While the government is upbeat that all television stations will have migrated to the new broadcasting platform by 2012, it has emerged that 40 per cent of households in the country may not be able to access these channels.
Out of the four million households with televisions sets, the industry regulator says 1.6 million own the black and white sets that they bought at Sh4,000 and may not afford or see value in investing double the amount to acquire the gadgets required to convert the analogue signals to digital.
Dealers in the gadgets, popularly referred to as digital terrestrial set-top boxes have not lowered their prices even after the government scrapped 25 per cent duty on them.
Samuel Kabui, the general secretary at Digital Decoders Association of Kenya, blamed this on the specification of the decoders the government has allowed the dealers to bring into the country.
“The dealers should be allowed to bring in decoders that either access free-to-air television stations such as NTV, KTN or K24, or those that are compatible with both Pay Tv and free- to -air channels,” Mr Kabui said.
He added that this would give consumers the choice to buy one which is compatible with pay television or one that accesses free- to- air only.
The government has only allowed the importation of set to boxes on the Digital Video Broadcast technology 2 DVB-T2 which can be used to access both pay and free-to -air televisions.
But the dealers say that this is a high end technology that has kept prices high despite the waiver on import duty.
Francis Wangusi, the acting director-general at the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), confirmed that the greatest barrier to the success of digital migration would be the access to affordable set top boxes.
“Free- to- air set top boxes are still too expensive at Sh8,000 which is way beyond the reach of the majority and that is why we (CCK) are asking the Treasury to look for other ways other than the waiver on duty to make them affordable,” said Mr Wangusi.
He said the current market structure is skewed towards subscription television which would affect the free -to- air market segment and slow down digital migration.
The pay television providers— StarTimes and GOtv— are selling their digital terrestrial set-top boxes at Sh2,999 and Sh3,500 respectively.
But the catch is that one must buy their monthly packages which may not be sustainable for low income earners.
“There are those who don’t need pay television so why can’t they just be allowed to buy decoders that can enable them to access free-to-air channels only?” posed Mr Kabui.
He said prices of the basic decoders for free- to- air can be imported and sold from as low as Sh2,000 compared to the multi-channel ones that the independent dealers are selling at between Sh5,000 and Sh9,000.