Nairobi (AFP) – Key Kenyan television stations were taken off air Saturday after failing to switch from analogue to digital signals, leading opposition politicians to accuse the government of creating “information darkness.”
Officials from the government’s Communication Authority (CA), accompanied by police, switched off the analogue signal around midday at four major stations — NTV, KTN, Citizen TV and QTV.
The government’s phase-out of analogue technology has been opposed by several broadcasters, who argue the digital set-top boxes needed for the new service would be too expensive for most Kenyans to buy.
For that reason, many stations have resisted equipping themselves for digital broadcasting — a procrastination tactic the government appears to be undercutting by moving forward with the analogue cut as planned.
“In compliance with Communications Authority analogue switch off order we regret to inform our regular broadcasts are no longer on air,” read an on-screen message sent out by affected stations before they went dark.
They added that they had not been given the “requisite time to import our own transmitters and set top boxes.”
It’s unclear how long those channels will remain off the air before switching to digital — or whether they might be allowed to eventually resume analogue broadcasts should authorities back down.
The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy alliance criticised the shut down for plunging Kenya into “information darkness” in which people who have “no access to the expensive pay TV will never know what is going on in government and with fellow citizens,” it said in a statement.
Television is a key source of news for many Kenyans.
East African nations have agreed to switch to digital transmission by mid 2015, with Tanzania leading the way.