Government issues 8-hour ultimatum to pay-tv providers to give unconditional access to free-to-air channels

Communication Authority of Kenya. [Photo Courtesy]

The government has directed all pay-tv providers to give access to already blocked free to air (FTA) channels on their decoders.

Through the regulator, Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), Director-General Mercy Wanjau said the authority has received a litany of complaints from Kenyans about service providers blocking FTA channels by altering configuration in their DTTplatforms if the consumer has not paid for subscription.

In a letter to the service providers dated March 30, she said that FTA signals for PANG, Signet, Bamba and ADN transmitted to their set-top boxes should be available at all times.

“The said action is contrary to our regulatory directive that all type approved DVB-T2 set-top boxes should be configured to receive all FTA channels transmitted from any available DTT platform without any restriction whatsoever,” stated the CA boss.

One of the conditions for licensing service providers includes a clause which they agree to transmit FTA signal via their DTT platforms and into the decoder for any Kenyan, irrespective of paying for subscription services or not, to have free access all the time.

However, major pay-TV players in the industry – GOTV, Startimes – among others, have been blocking their signal to consumers whose subscription is not paid for or when it expires.

This, Ms Wanjau noted, is a violation of the terms laid down during licensing. She directed that all services providers who have blocked FTA access after the expiry of subscription to undo it in eight hours.

“This is therefore to direct all licensed DTT broadcast signal distributors and DTT pay-TV providers to unconditionally remove any restrictions and enable reception of all FTA broadcast signals from all other DTT platforms within forty-eight hours from the date of this letter, failure to which the Authority will take necessary measures to stop the violation,” the letter concluded.