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Media houses move to court, want digital migration stopped

By KURIAN MUSA | November 23rd 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300


Three media houses have moved to court to stop the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) from switching off their analogue frequencies.

Through an application signed by Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei, Royal Media Service chairman SK Macharia and Nation Media Group Chief Executive Linus Gitahi, the media houses want CCK stopped from effecting the switch-off planned for December 13.

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Justice Mumbi Ngugi, yesterday certified the application as urgent.

The three media houses are also seeking to prevent Signet Kenya Limited, The Star Times limited, Pan Africa Network Group Kenya Limited and GOTV Kenya Limited who are listed as respondents, from interfering with their programmes.

Signet and the Star Times have been granted digital signal distribution licences by the Ministry of Information and the CCK.

The application was filed as urgent to stop the service providers from “using their licences or agents from broadcasting, distributing and interfering with their programmes, copyrighted material and productions which could infringe the intellectual property of the petitioner”.

As the principal advisor of the Government, the Attorney General is enjoined in the petition as a respondent and defender of public interest.

The media houses believe that the principles of governance like the rule of law, equity, inclusiveness, human rights, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability will not have been observed if their frequencies are shut down and that an open and democratic society based on human rights, dignity, freedom shall be violated as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The three media houses have a combined television viewership of more than 85 per cent and have been providing analogue terrestrial TV countrywide.

Collectively, the houses have painstakingly invested more than Sh40 billion in modern equipment to overtake the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

Huge investment

The Standard Group avers that it has invested more than Sh2.67 billion in its broadcasting infrastructure, including the state of art television studios, broadcasting mast, towers and transmitters.

Nation Media Group in the petition says it has 350 employees in its broadcast division since it was licensed in December, 1998.

In their affidavit, NMG states that it has invested more than Sh2 billion in its broadcasting infrastructure including state of the art studios.

“The petitioners have invested heavily in the broadcasting infrastructure bearing in mind this is done from their own recourses,” their advocate said.

The transition was mooted at the Regional Radio Communications Conference held in Geneva in 2006 that established the digital terrestrial plan that required countries to prepare to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting. Participants of the conference set June 17, 2015 as the deadline for transition for Europe, the Middle East, the Former Soviet Republics, Iran and Africa.

Flawed process

In their affidavit, the petitioners claim that CCK issued a tender in a flawed and uncompetitive process that lacked transparency and accountability.

They say a Chinese firm Pan Africa Group Kenya, the fourth respondent, obtained an additional BSD licence from the CCK but declined to award a licence to the Nation Media and Royal Media which applied on July 4, 2011 though their National Signal Networks.

They say the Ministry of Information pegged impractical reasons to decline issuing the licenses sought thus negating the recommendations of a task force mandated to see the digital migration from analogue. They aver that they have not been duly registered to the Digital Signal Distributors, as recommended by the task force.

They claim the process of migration has been mismanaged and the set top boxes were still unavailable to their consumers, a dysfunction that they attribute to failure of CCK. About 170,000 set boxes have been distributed while the number of TV sets in the country is estimated at 8 million. The Kenyan media said Tanzania’s citizens suffered due to such mismanagement and would not like to see Kenyans experience the same.

The matter will be heard in court on November 26, after the respondents have been served with the petition, judge Mumbi Ngugi ruled.


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