Nairobi residents have been given a brief reprieve by High Court Judge David Majanja who yesterday stopped the earlier planned switch-off of analogue TV broadcast signals on Friday December 13.
The deadline was set by the government through the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and its implementation would have meant that households with no Set Box Boxes (STB) or payTV decoders receive no TV signals after this Friday. Judge Majanja yesterday stopped the switch-off till Monday December 23 when he is expected to make a substantive ruling on the matter.
Majanja also rejected a plea by three media houses - Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group and Standard Group - who had asked to have the case referred to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. Majanja said the matter can be handled by one High Court judge and does not need to be sent to the CJ to constitute a 3-judge bench.
The issue of Nairobi analogue switch-off deadline has pitted the government and Kenya's media owners against each other.
The government - through the AG Githu Muigai, the Ministry of Information and Communications and CCK - as well as Signet Kenya, Star Times, Pan African Network and GOTV Kenya have been in support of the December 13 analogue switch-off deadline for Nairobi.
The 3 media houses represented in the case had argued that they stand to incur massive financial loss if the analogue switch-off date is effected, adding that the government has not put in place adequate measures to ensure the availability of universal STBs for receiving digital transmission countrywide.
The media owners said that the government has so far only distributed 170,000 STBs, against the country's estimated 8 million TV households. They added that more than 90 per cent of viewers will not receive TV broadcasts if the deadline is not extended. According to CCK's fourth quarter sector statistics report for 2012/13 which covers the period between APRIL-JUNE, 2013, the number of existing analogue TV channels which had activated their signal on the digital broadcasting platform stood at 13 out of the 14 existing analogue TV channels.
It is however difficult to ascertain the number of decoders sold by PayTV service providers to date - DStv; GOtv and Zuku - to give one an indication of the number of households which are staring at imminent switch-off. Kenya's TV migration deadline has been extended for a number of times in the past, with the initial deadline of December 31, 2012 being moved to September 2013. The September deadline was again pushed to December 13 for Nairobi and June 2014 for national migration.
Kenya aims to meet and comply with the ITU's global deadline of June 2015 set during the RCC meeting in 2006.
The temporary reprieve means that households with no STBs or payTV decoders can watch their TVs during the long Kenya@50 Celebrations which begin tomorrow - December 12 - but are however not sure if they will be able to receive TV signals over the Christmas holidays. This is because the High Court can rule in either way on December 23, just days to Christmas.