Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i (centre) and Consumers Federation of Kenya secretary general Stephen Mutoro in a past press conference.
DAILY NATION/Lilian Ochieng - The government is locked in a fresh battle with a consumer lobby group that could further delay the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting scheduled for October.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) on Monday said it has withdrawn from the government-led Digital Television Committee barely a month after the two parties agreed to co-operate in the process to realise a smooth transition.
The lobby has now accused the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology of failing to honour its part of the deal that would have seen Cofek spearhead the migration process.
“While Cofek met all its expectations, the government side did not honour even a single expectation,” said Cofek secretary general Mr Stephen Mutoro.
The move now casts fresh doubts on the success of the migration which was expected to kick off by switching off analogue signals in Nairobi in the next two months.
In the deal signed last month, the government was to give Cofek the mandate to head a new nine-member Digital Migration Stakeholders’ Forum. However, Mr Mutoro said the government had instead handed the lobby a seat on the Digital Migration Committee and scuttled its efforts to lead the forum.
Though Cofek has said it will not go back to court to oppose the migration, the new disagreements could lead to further delays in the transition with less than two years left to the global deadline.
“We will not move back to Court to challenge the analogue switch-off. Our options will, however, remain open as regards all lawful means to ensure the set-top boxes will not only be affordable but of good quality and that the digital frequency signals will be stable and accessible within all areas designated for analogue switch-off,” Mr Mutoro said.
Cofek last year successfully challenged the government’s intention to switch Nairobi from analogue to digital broadcasting by December. However, following discussions with the government, the lobby group withdrew the court case in exchange for role to steer the process.
Additionally, Mr Mutoro took issue with the government’s continued failure to grant consumer lobbies a seat in the Communications Commission of Kenya board.
He said the lobby group would no longer be willing to withdraw an ongoing court case it had filed to force the government create a post for a consumer representative in the regulator’s board because of betrayal from the ministry.
One of the major issues of contention in the migration has been the high prices of set-top boxes –gadgets that convert digital signal ion a format compatible with analogue television sets.
In the court case, Cofek had wanted the price of set-top boxes to fall from the current Sh5,000 to below Sh2,000.
“Even with the new proposed switch-off date for Nairobi of October 30, very few consumers will be able to switch to digital format as there are no indications that the set top boxes will retail at lower than Sh5,000 per unit,” the lobby group said.