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Government loses ground in digital migration row

14 April 2014, 11:24 Victor Tinto

Nairobi - The government was once again dealt a major blow in its plight to push through with digital migration after yet another court ruling went south.

A two bench judge Friday stopped four signal distributors from airing any content belonging to the country’s three top media houses without permission.


By stopping Signet Kenya limited, Star Times Media Limited, Pan Africa Network Group Kenya Limited and GOTV Kenya from broadcasting content from Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group and the Standard Group, Supreme Court judges Jackton Boma Ojwang and Smokin Wanjala upheld Appeal Court’s decision of allowing viewers to enjoy free TV.


While delivering a ruling to an appeal filed by the government and the Communications Commission of Kenya against a ruling that favoured the three media houses on matters digital migration, the judges asked CCK not to switch off any broadcasting frequencies.


The judges also said that the case turns out to reveal the complexity of parties involved in the whole digital migration process as well as implications of the public interest and directed that the digital migration switch off to remain September 30.


They also noted the need for urgently hearing the appeal in order to establish a ground for deciding on the way forward concerning all issues raised with regards to digital migration.


“We have noted the importance and urgency of hearing this appeal as a basis for determining contending claims on merit, we therefore direct that Signet, Star Times, PANG and GOTV are hereby prohibited from broadcasting any content from the three media houses without their consent pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal,” ruled the judges.


As viewers and the three media houses got the temporary reprieve, CCK’s fate remains unknown as the Appellate Court had declared it not the relevant body to regulate airwaves yet Justices Ojwang and Wanjala suspended that declaration.


The bench also stopped CCK from switching off any frequencies and broadcasting spectrums.


“The CCK is prohibited from switching off any frequencies, broadcast spectrums or broadcasting services, the legal effect of the Court of Appeal’s declaration that the CCK was not the independent body as a regulator of the airwaves is held in abeyance pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal,” they ruled.


The Court of Appeal had ruled that CCK has no powers constitutionally to regulate what goes on air as in Article 34 and the judge’s ruling implies that the government with relevant stakeholders can still formulate a relevant body as a solution on regulation of airwaves and tendering of licenses if need be since that is the contentious issue in bringing into realization digital migration.


However, whether Nation Media Group, Standard Group and the Royal Media Service  who had been given a leeway to be furnished with licenses will forge ahead is not clear since that order remained untouched.


The judges also suspended the declaration that BSD license issued to Pan African Network Group Kenya Limited.


They instructed all the parties involved on the case to file their court documents regarding the appeal case within 21 days and then report to the Supreme Court Registrar to confirm compliance on May 27.

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