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TV set-top boxes costly despite import duty waiver

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On Luthuli Avenue, a digital set-top box was going for between Sh5,000 and Sh6,000, with retailers reporting good business.

On Luthuli Avenue, a digital set-top box was going for between Sh5,000 and Sh6,000, with retailers reporting good business. Photo/FILE 

By OKUTTAH MARK

Posted  Wednesday, December 5   2012 at  17:39

In Summary

  • None of the five listed vendors sells the convertors below Sh5,300, more than double the Sh2,500 the government had proposed.
  • Consumers are expected to benefit from clear pictures, while competition among service providers is set to lead to better quality of programmes.

The price of set-top boxes, gadgets that convert analogue TV signals to digital, remains high despite the government’s intervention.

The high cost may deny 900,000 owners of analogue TV sets access to their favourite channels.

A spot check by the Business Daily on vendors revealed that none of the five listed sells the convertors below Sh5,300, more than double the Sh2,500 the government had proposed.

The gadget is used to access local channels such as NTV, KTN, Citizen, and KBC among other free-to-air services.

On Monday, the government announced that it would switch off all analogue television broadcasts by December 31, a move that saw the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) warn that it would move to court if the date is not postponed.

Set deadline

Cofek chief executive Stephen Mutoro has written to Information ministry Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo saying that the government’s move to switch off analogue TV reception by the set deadline contravenes provisions of articles 27 and 35 of the Constitution by discriminating against individuals who might not afford set-top boxes at the current price.

“Your reported view that further delay will be too expensive to investors confirms that the government is unfairly protecting the private sector at the expense of consumers and in total disregard of provisions of Article 46 of the Constitution,” said Mr Mutoro in a letter to Dr Ndemo.

“In the event that we do not favourably hear from you soonest, we will have no option other than seek judicial intervention.”

In August, the government revised the minimum specifications, allowing for importation of equipment that exclusively supports free-to-air (FTA) channels.

The move was meant to bring prices down by 45 per cent to around Sh3,360.

High price

However, traders who have brought in the gadgets say that it is not a long term business and as such prices will not go below Sh5,000.

The high price has led some viewers to subscribe to pay-TV service providers such as Startimes at an initial fee of Sh2,999, and Gotv at Sh3,100, then pay content at Sh5,99 per month.

“The number of enquiries we are receiving since Tuesday when the government announced to switch off Nairobi has gone up, but people are still not buying,” said a salesperson at Microville Solutions Ltd, who asked not to be named because she is not the company’s spokesperson.

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