29 March 2014

Kenya: Digital TV Migration Pushed to September

THE Court of Appeal yesterday pushed digital migration deadline to September 30. Appellate judges Roselyne Nambuye, David Maranga and Daniel Musinga in a judgement they issued at the Supreme Court, Nairobi, said the time will enable the Communication Commission of Kenya to grant a licence to a third distributor to ensure fair play.

They ordered that three media houses who filed the case, Nation Media Group, the Standard Group and Royal Media Services, be given the third digital transmission licence. They said CCK was still government controlled when the licences were being given out in the year 2009 and an independent body should have overseen the exercise.

The migration was set to kick-off in Nairobi from December 31 last year in a judgement delivered by judge David Majanja but was later suspended until February 14 this year by justice Isaac Lenaola. Kenya which is a member of the World Telecommunications Union have agreed to switch to digital transmission not later than June 2015.

The first licence is held by Signet in which Kenya Broadcasting Corporation own the company while the second one was granted to Panafrica by CCK. During proceedings lawyer Paul Muite said the government should have introduced a Broadcasting Bill to create an independent broadcasting authority to spearhead digital migration instead of leaving it to the CCK which is part of government.

He added that the decision to deny a digital transmission licence to the media houses licences was discriminative and in bad faith.

Lawyer Philip Murgor argued that the Ministry of Information and the Communications Commission of Kenya should not have contracted foreign pay-television firms to offer digital broadcasts as Article 34 of the Constitution bars government interference in media management.

In the appeal, the three media houses complained that pay TV companies Signet Kenya, Star Times Media, Pan Africa Network Group and GoTv Kenya Limited were rebroadcasting their signals without permission or compensation.

Only Signet and Star Times have digital signal distribution licences from the Ministry of Information and the CCK.

In a four-hour judgement read by the three judges, they said airwaves is a scarce resource and it should be given out fairly to industry players.

Nambuye who read the final judgement said it was demeaning for the three media houses to be knocked out as the oversight made them to look as though they lack integrity.

She said the media houses have invested heavily to the tune of about Sh40 billion and they cannot be overlooked as they are major stakeholders in the industry.

Lawyer Evans Monari for CCK said they would move to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling.

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