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No upsurge in set-top box sales despite Friday hearing

Sales of digital TV set-top boxes remain low in Kenya, in spite of warnings that the Nairobi analogue TV switch-off could take place almost immediately after the hearing of a court case set for Friday.

Thecase, filed by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), a consumer protection organisation, challenges the implementation of phase one of the nationwide analogue-to-digital television broadcasting migration deadline, which had initially been set for December 31, 2012.

According to Cofek, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has given no reasons for “the hurry to switch off analogue broadcasting ahead of the global 2015 deadline”.

The slow adoption of the set-top boxes could see a supply constraint if the High Court lifts the orders restraining the CCK from implementing the switch-off.

“Kenyans are last minute people, we do not expect a surge in sales until the switch off is implemented,” a senior official at DStv Kenya told HumanIPO on condition of anonymity.

If Cofek is to lose the case, there is fear among some Kenyan TV-owners that the government would without delay switch off analogue broadcasting.

This has been the case in a number of cases involving public works, where the government has been known to demolish houses and other structures minutes after a case has been ruled in its favour, with some critics observing that this is to water down the chances of any further appeals.

“Legally, the deadline has lapsed hence the government has every justification to go ahead and implement the switch off as soon as the orders are lifted. The main reason as to why such a switch off is implemented in a hurry is to halt any further effort to forestall the process,” said George Mwangi, a Nairobi lawyer with Kithi and Kithi Advocates.

“Secondly the government is aware that it is much harder to get orders to reverse a process than to forestall a process before it begins.”

Legal experts expect the government to pull the “red card” on procrastinating Kenyans leaving millions of city dwellers without transmission. According to current statistics, less than 90 percent of Kenyan homes have set-top boxes.

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