Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Elections Held in December

It takes a newly-elected government at least four months to install itself comfortably into the nooks and crannies that characterize the corridors of power. Selecting nominees for the many offices and committees that usually need reconstituting - due to executive privilege, or resignations of holders with viewpoints opposed to the incoming administration. Vetting procedings, as well as general familiarity with new official environments, rearrangements and general euphoria that characterize accession to power, take time to settle.

In my opinion, the last four months of the year are just the right time for such elementary proceedings. Which is why elections should be held earlier; in August preferrably, so that by January of the following year, everything is set for a neat take-off. Voters allow themselves the chance to bond over the festive season, and easily overcome the tensions of a charged elections season. Schools and businesses can look forward to a complete new year devoid of distractions, when the festive season ends; and the new year has a psychological starting point from which to evaluate its progress.

When the country votes in December, just the opposite happens. Nobody really has a festive season, as the days are consumed by political tension and noise. These spill over into the new year, and literally waste away the first few months, as a new government strives to install itself, while meeting the challenges of a demanding public. In temporal terms, two calendar years are lost to politics. Should schools be opening, or should we await the Supreme Court's ruling on the presidential election? Should you, instead, be flying away to the holiday you could not award yourself due to your civic commitments over December? It is unnecessary messiness. And it wastes the natural tendency of people to work harder towards the end of the year.

Every time you mix two high-tempo seasons, someone is bound to come out a loser - either emotionally or even economically. That hurts the nation, deeply.

Seeking Rationality, I Must Shift From DStv to GOtv.

In Kenya, the digital migration wars are roiling. As the ITU mandated deadline for migration from analogue television broadcasting technologies to the more efficient digital systems elapses, a momentous court battle is raging between the industry regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya, CA, and the three largest terrestrial broadcast networks in Kenya. Senior Counsel Paul Muite and a battery of awe-inspiring laywers are pitted against the regulaor in various courtrooms, from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court.

Whereas I feel for the broadcasters in their battle against a hard-tackling regulator, I am not particularly perturbed by the possible outcomes. You see, I migrated from analogue to digital, at a household level, in May 2009. Five and a half years ago, as I write this. For those years, I have paid subscriptions to MultiChoice Kenya, for their lowest-priced satellite bouquet. That serves my need for news briefs, a bit of live sport and quite an array of dated culture shows - not being a real television buff.

However, with the recent transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting technology, their offerings on GOtv have shifted my allegiances. For a slightly lower fee, I have access to seven or more channels that were previously unavailable to me. CNN, MTV Base, Sony Entertainment, Sony Max, one or other of those Nigerian movie channels and an Events Channel that has recently been broadcasting the African Cup of Nations extravaganza in Equatorial Guinea. I might not receive the RAI channel, Bloomberg, NDTV or the debased CNBC Africa, but I am fine, thank you.

The decorder allows me to view quite a number of local free to air channels that are not available on the satellite platform. That is a huge value proposition for me. As a message to MultiChoice? Don't miss me too much on satellite, because I am fully grounded at home on DTB.

Now for an appeal: satellite broadcasting required a smartcard in the decorders as a buffer to signal misappropriation by clients. The new terrestrial technology, without smartcards, should be cheaper for all of us. Why, wouldn't MultiChoice consider winning the decorder wars in Kenya, by placing all the premium content channels on GOtv, so as to reach a bigger market, with lower costs both for themselves and the clients?

I would not mind a super dose of live sport and headline cinema, at a lower cost. After all, Kenyans are known to love buying things in small quantities, only more often. As a rational consumer of television, I hedge my bets with GOtv, and have given up on exclusive satellite feeds.