Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DIGITAL MIGRATION KENYA: Time for Consumers to Ask for More



Remember the story of the “noisy hornbill”? Just in case you have never read or heard of the story; it is about a bird whose story was shared to many who went through primary school English lessons in Kenya in the mid 90s.

The noisy hornbill was not very much celebrated by other inhabitants in the forest where it lived. His noisy nature was not a blessing at all to the rest. The only positive bit about the hornbill from my point of understanding is that he would alert the rest each time danger surfaced. In Kenya we have many noisy hornbills in almost every context; they not only seem to alert the rest about impending danger but make it difficult also for genuine hunters to have their day.

I am sure you are now awake to the fact that the digital television migration in Kenya is rolling out starting January 2015. The Government appears to have disabled their reverse gear on this process and by March 2015 all of us should have migrated. It is an international demand and we have to comply.

In that case, whether you are prepared or not it is time to migrate or say goodbye to television content as the rest of the world moves on. 

I established the ground for my piece with the noisy hornbill anecdote to entice your attention. Now that the noisy hornbill’s wings have been clipped and that he has something to keep him busy, a low toned voices like mine can be heard.

Some media houses in Kenya rushed to court to block the initial migration plan. They might have succeeded to delay the migration but truth be told; the December 2014 31st migration deadline for Nairobi and the March 2015 for the rest has gotten them pants down with regard to infrastructure and content development. As some have started hinting, their going to court was widely perceived by many as a sheer move to block the migration instead of contesting the alleged unfair issuance of content distribution licenses. They framed their own story and the masses got it as framed.

The next counter digital migration strategy is likely going to be informed by what a media colleague Macharia Gaitho classifies under foolish excuses given by critics of the local content threshold set by Government of Kenya.  It was very interesting and encouraging by the way to watch and listen to Macharia Gaitho during the last 2014 episode of the PressPass on NTV say that there actually need no legislation on the issue of local content, suggesting that we abandon foolish excuses and give the consumers local content. 

Indeed they should be given. Just like the wind of digital migration will not be stopped from blowing fast and furious by the noisy hornbill; the writing is in the air that those who thought that local content does not have consumers in Kenya or that there is no capacity locally to generate sufficient content for the required threshold, are framing their story for a rude shock.

The demand for local content will not be delayed by foolish excuses. It simply goes without saying that media houses currently investing in local content are getting popular by day across the country and it is just a matter of time before the rest follow suit.

You may have not allowed your brain to look at the digital TV migration positively because of the noisy hornbill but it is very true than ever before that the muscles employed by the mainstream media houses to place a bottle neck on the path to media space for advertisers, local content producers and the young media professional parents in Kenya have invested to train for the media market will soon be a thing of the past.

Big media houses with financial might and political influence have for as long as you can recall almost dictated where advertisers are to sell their products and rubbished local content ideas. This has started changing and will change more visibly with the digital migration. 

As we migrate and not like the famous Masai Mara wild beasts, we must start placing our demands towards a better world in the TV digital Canaan land. The foremost demand we ought to make is call the Government to action on the implementation of the local content threshold requirement across all local TV stations. 

This demand will create room for quality local productions and employment opportunities for trained creative media professionals in Kenya who graduate from training institutions only to a miserable life due to limited media jobs. It would have been gradually become immaterial to continue forming media professionals in hundreds each year expecting them to work in less than 20 TV stations.

I am not being over optimistic but just convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the digital migration if well managed and implemented will provide employment not only to many media professionals but also to a pool of young and upcoming serious local talents. An artiste whose music video has previously been rejected for foolish reasons will likely get air play, a drama group whose idea was kicked out at the reception room of a media house will most likely get an ear. These ideas will not be free of charge; serious media houses will invest in competitive ideas to attract viewers and advertisers to their stations. It is time for freelancers and independent local content producers to position themselves.

Viewers will have freedom to choose and success will follow the serious media house. TV media houses will establish new partnerships with Content Production houses including those that have during the analogue era been reduced to competing for wedding coverage or closing shop. 

If you have a program idea you once proposed to a media house and it was rejected or stolen, this is the time to revisit it. The thirst for content in the now very level playing field will soon be very high. The stone they rejected is likely to be very relevant within the next 15 years of this millennium. TV stations will scamper for these ideas to sustain their cash flow from advertising deals.

Before the noisy hornbill subdues my voice and as I conclude; the second demand consumers should progressively make is; press for a reduction or total cancellation of the monthly maintenance charges. An environment that draws a line between the cans and the can nots perpetrates inequality. 

In my opinion the cost should only be at the point of purchasing the decoder. This would not be asking for too much. Even if we do not do it now, very soon our opportunistic politicians will insert it in their deceitful manifestoes and promise to grant it to us within their first 100 days in power. I am sure it will make a lot sense to us if it is present as a result of our demand. We should not allow them to dangle it to us as pre-election bait to catch our votes.


Nicholas Waigwa – Kenyan Journalist| worked for Catholic Radio Waumini, Nairobi  (7years)|Implemented capacity building programs for local journalists of the South Sudan Catholic Radio Network’s 7 radio stations  (2 1/2years)|Volunteer Communication Consultant, Seed Institute| Founding Director Nickpoint Media Ltd and Nickpoint Media Trust – 2012| Awards for excellence in Journalism; 2007 Radio Category winner, Red Ribbon Media awards; 2009 Radio Category winner Children Rights Media Awards| 2008 Nominee Global Health media Awards |CONTACT: nickwaigwa2001@yahoo.com
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