5 February 2013

Kenya: Royal Media Fails to Extend Switch-Off Order

The fate of 17 Royal Media Services transmitters hangs in the balance after the court failed to extend an order stopping them from being shut down.

High court judge David Majanja yesterday said the Communications Commission of Kenya acted within the law when it shut down RMS frequencies that were operating illegally.

Majanja declined to extend the orders that were initially issued on Sunday. He instead directed the parties to go back to court on February 14 to argue the case before Justice Erick Ogola.

The two parties were also asked to exchange court documents before the hearing date. Yesterday, CCK accused RMS of duping the court when it obtained the special orders.

Lawyer Wambua Kilonzo told Majanja that RMS is aware of a court order, dated January 30, allowing it to shut down the illegal transmitters.

"The warrant to confiscate (the transmitters) was duly issued by a magistrate court and it was shown to RMS guards manning the transmitters," said Wambua.

The lawyer said the transmitters will be used as evidence in a criminal case against RMS. The dispute between the CCK and RMS began on August 9 last year when the regulator accused the company of operating in unauthorised locations.

The CCK ordered RMS to instead relocate the stations to undefined designated broadcast sites failure to which they will be switched off. The state regulator accuses RMS of failing to obtain licenses for the transmitters operating in Narok, Nakuru, Malindi and Ukambani.

Some of the transmitters, located in non-designated broadcasting sites, are causing harmful interferences to other broadcasters, aviation and other critical services.

The stations affected by the switch-off include Citizen Radio, Maa, Inooro, Musyi, Wimwaro, Muuga and Citizen TV. Initially, CCK had asked the company to install suitable band pass filters to prevent interference with other frequencies.

According to a letter sent to RMS on August 3 last year, the regulator accused the media company of failing to install band pass filters for its stations and failing to obtain approval for transmitters in Limuru, Webuye, Eldoret, Londiani and Kisekini.

CCK says the illegal transmitters are interfering with other broadcasters in East Africa and the avionic communication, thus threatening the safety of Kenya's airspace.

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