Appeal court suspends Kenya's digital TV migration

Rebecca Hawkes | 31-12-2013

The Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and the Standard Group have been granted a reprieve in their fight to halt the migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT), a process that the Kenyan Government started on 27 December 2013.

Judges Alnashir Visram, Paul Kihara and Hannah Okwengu held that three media houses, which are challenging the move to DTT, have an arguable case. They have granted a temporary order for the Communications Commission of Kenya (CKK) and the Ministry of Information to reinstate analogue TV signals until the case can be heard in February.
"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 6 February 2014," said Justice Kihara.
Representing the three media houses, lawyer Paul Muite argued that his clients will lose goodwill and advertising revenues to foreign broadcasters when their analogue frequencies are switched off.
A Broadcasting Bill should have been introduced to create an independent broadcasting authority, argues Muite, rather than the Government-run CKK spearheading the country's transition to digital broadcasting.
The three media houses were not given digital transmission licences, and instead pay-TV companies Signet Kenya, China's Star Times Media, Pan Africa Network Group and GoTv Kenya Ltd are – they claim – rebroadcasting their signals without permission or compensation, reports The Star.
However, the CCK and Attorney General Githu Muigai argue the Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and the Standard Group were twice issued with licences that they rejected, and that they were represented on all digital migration committees. The Government bodies allege the three media groups even agreed to an analogue switch-off date, and say that therefore their court action is hypocritical.
Following the ruling on 27 December, Information Communications and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi tweeted: "My ministry will unfailingly and unreservedly comply with the Court of Appeal order halting digital migration."
The appeal will be heard on 6 February 2014.