Kenyan TV channels off air after digital migration row

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A televised debate on charges faced by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) being dropped, is aired on television sets displayed in an electronics shop, on 5 December 2014, in the Kenyan capital NairobiImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Television is the main source of news in Kenya's towns and cities

Three of Kenya's main private TV stations are unavailable in most of the country due to a row over the switch from analogue to digital transmission.

The analogue signal for KTN, Citizen, NTV and its subsidiary QTV was turned off over the weekend.

The TV stations then switched off their digital signals in protest.

This is the latest twist in a long-running dispute over the switch to digital broadcasting, which has led to several court battles.

The BBC's Anne Soy in Nairobi says most Kenyans have been left confused and in the dark.

State-run broadcaster KBC and K24 TV, which is owned by the family of President Uhuru Kenyatta, remain on air.

Global deadline

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the digital migration must continue, rejecting the TV stations' request for a three-month delay.

The companies say they want more time to import their own set-top boxes that would distribute their content.

Two providers - one owned by the Kenyan government and the other by a Chinese firm - are already in operation.

About a third of Kenya's households own a television set, the main news source in urban areas.

The Communications Authority of Kenya says 60% of those have now acquired a set-top box to receive a digital signal.

But the media houses say up to 90% of Kenyans have been left without access to television.

Neighbouring Tanzania went ahead with its digital migration on 31 December 2013, the first country to do so of the five members of the East African Community.

The group had agreed to an early switchover to fix any glitches ahead of the June 2015 global deadline to end analogue transmissions.

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