Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: Reprieve for Media As Appeal Court Halts Digital Migration

Nairobi — Media houses got a reprieve in their bid to halt the digital migration after the Court of Appeal on Friday ordered Communications Commission of Kenya and the Ministry of Information to reinstate analogue broadcasting until February 6 pending the determination of the appeal.

A three judge bench led by Justice Kihara Kariuki also directed the two to refrain from interfering with the broadcasts of the three major media houses which had appealed a High Court ruling delivered on Monday - Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and the Standard Group.

"We are restraining the second and third respondents from switching of the frequencies', broadcasting spectrums, and broadcasting services and if already switched off to reinstate the same pending the hearing and determination of the appeal on or before February 6, 2014," said Justice Kihara.

Justice Kihara said the bench comprising himself and Appellate Judges Alnashir Visram and Hannah Okwengu would give reasons for ordering the temporary return of analogue broadcasting on January 31.

Information Communications and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi in a message posted on his twitter handle (@FredMatiangi) said that; 'my ministry will unfailingly and unreservedly comply with the Court of Appeal order halting digital migration'.

CCK had on Thursday midnight kicked off the migration to a digital broadcasting platform when it switched off analogue television broadcasting for Nairobi and its environment.

Three media houses, Nation Media Group, the Standard Group and the Royal Media Services moved to the Court of Appeal seeking orders to stop the switch off from analogue to digital broadcast until an appeal by the petitioners is heard and determined.

The media houses through their lawyer Paul Muite told the court that they cannot abandon their frequencies for that of a carrier who is in direct competition with them.

"How do we reverse the violation of the constitutional rights of the Kenyan people to receive information in terms of Article 33 and 34, if we don't get an injunction?" posed Muite.

He added that the media houses should be granted digital licenses and frequencies to operate stating that the Freedom of the Media provided for under Article 34 of the Constitution cannot be enjoyed without broadcasting licenses and frequencies.

"What happens to our investment because we are being told go to the Chinese to be carried," he said adding, "If we don't get the stay, we are flashing down the drain our Sh40 billion investment."

During the morning hearing aimed at establishing whether there is grounds for the appeal to be granted, the judges sought to know if the was any prejudice that the government would suffer should the Court issue an injunction to halt the migration.

Justices Kihara and Visram in separate instances questioned the representatives for the Attorney General and Wambua Kilonzo for the CCK on the rush to switch off the analogue signal yet the deadline for digital migration is June 2015.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya through their advocate said that Kenyans need more time to be able to purchase the set boxes stating that majority may not be able to buy the set boxes because they will be paying school fees for their children in January.

COFEK urged the government to subsidise the current prices of the set boxes, which range between Sh3,499 and Sh5,000, as they found it too high for the majority of Kenyans.

Kilonzo however challenged this stand arguing that postponing digital migration would send the message that digital migration will never kick-off

"There is no doubt that there will be disruption and again my lord, there will be no ideal time at which migration will start yesterday we were told don't start because people will not watch the late Nelson Mandela's funeral, today it's about school fees, in June 2014 there will be the football World Cup, there will be no ideal time this process has to start at some point," said Kilonzo.

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