The new television channels are aimed at Ethiopians and have offices in Addis Ababa but get their broadcast licenses from overseas

ADDIS ABABA (The Economist)―Stroll through Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and everywhere you will see satellite dishes, sprouting mushroom-like from roofs, gardens and balconies. “People have roofs to repair, but they are buying satellite dishes instead,” chuckles Abel Adamu, a lecturer at the Addis Ababa School of Journalism. “Wherever you go in Ethiopia, it is the satellite dish that comes first.”

The proliferation of these dishes symbolizes the frustration that Ethiopia’s 90m citizens feel with state-owned television. But after years of hankering for a choice in what they can watch, Ethiopians are fast becoming spoiled for one. Four private satellite channels have launched so far this year. More are on the way. Kana TV, which first broadcast in March, has taken the country by storm. Shops and cafés across the country have renamed themselves after it. Conservative commentators decry its foreign soap operas, dubbed into Amharic, for corrupting Ethiopian culture.

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The new channels are aimed at Ethiopians and have offices in Addis Ababa but get their broadcast licenses from overseas. So far they have stuck to light entertainment, but a slew of news and current-affairs programs are reportedly in the pipeline. More significantly still, in October the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) announced that it was granting licenses to three privately owned satellite channels, a first in the agency’s history. It says it also plans to grant licenses to private terrestrial ones early next year.

Continue reading this story on The Economist
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