Kenya has registered an explosive growth in the number of TV and radio stations in about two years since the East African nation switched from analogue to digital broadcasting.
The growth has been unprecedented, with the number of TV stations rising to 66 while radio stations have doubled to 178 since 2015. The swell indicated that Kenyans now have more variety in terms of TV content and can choose from a myriad of radio stations to listen.
Besides, the growth means more jobs created in the sector, which include radio and TV announcers, technicians and journalists. "At the end of the financial year 2016/2017, the number of free-to-air TV channels on the digital terrestrial platform stood at 66 up from 60 recorded in the previous quarter," latest data from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) shows Wednesday.
The TV stations are mainly free-to-air as tight competition among pay TV players in the East African nation has locked out new entrants. The regulator attributed the increase to the opened space in the broadcasting sector as a result of digital TV, which has made it easy to join as all investors need to do is register their stations and come up with content, which will be carried by companies that distribute the Digital Terrestrial Television network.
The mode of operation has, therefore, reduced investment capital for investors who initially had to install transmission infrastructure across the country.
"The increase in TV stations is mainly as a result of licensing of new entrants in the broadcasting market," said the CA in the report for the quarter ending June.
Kenya switched to digital TV in January 2015 and since then, the signal has been expanding to cover 78 percent of the population as at the end of June, enabling millions of people who were locked out of TV viewing initially to enjoy the service. During the quarter, there was extension of network coverage by some of the self-provisioning digital signal distributors to various areas, including far-flung border towns like Kapenguria, Wajir and Lamu.
The expansion of the digital signal coupled with rise in the number of TV stations from five in 2015 has made more Kenyans acquire set-top-boxes. Close to 5 million Kenyans now own the set-top boxes which they use to access the digital signal, up from less than 1 million in 2015.
"The cumulative number of digital set-top boxes purchased as at the end of June stood at 729,477 for Free-to-Air set top boxes and 3,788,417 for pay TV," the CA noted.
Similarly, the total number of active FM stations in the country has risen to 178 stations as at the end of June from nearly 70 in 2015. Like TV, the FM stations are being carried on the digital platform making it easier for investors to join the industry.
"When compared to the 139 stations recorded in last financial year, there has been a remarkable increase of 28 percent, which was as a result of licensing of new operators in market," said CA. Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution, noted that digital migration was a huge blessing for the Kenyan citizens and the sector in general.
"Though the migration was initially resisted by media owners, time has come to disapprove them as the sector has expanded exponentially. Now the industry is no longer controlled by the big corporates but even small players have a stake in it," he said. Mwaso observed that the entrance of the new TV and radio stations has led to more audience segmentation and fragmentation giving people a variety of stations and programmes to choose from.
"It is a good thing because you can now find a TV or radio station catering for farmers or news only, for instance. This is something that could not have been possible in the past," he noted, adding that a good number of stations are regional and broadcast in vernacular languages therefore addressing listeners immediate needs.