BY FRED MATIANG’I
On Friday 13th February 2013, the Supreme Court of Kenya ruled on petition number 14 of 2014 that had been brought before them by The Royal Media Services Ltd, the Standard Media Services Ltd and the Nation Media Services. This is one of the many cases that the three media houses filed in court over the last four years in their quest to redress a number of issues relating to digital migration.
In their considered ruling, the Justices of the Supreme Court of Kenya found at paragraph 34 of their ruling that “It is clear to us that, following the judgment of this court, and the appropriate acts of compliance which have been summarised in this ruling, the stage was properly set for migration from analogue to the digital platform in broadcast transmissions, and there was, and is, a new national and international reality in that regard, to be adopted and internalised by all parties who have come before us.
From the foregoing observation, and from our ruling as a whole, it should be clear that there is in place no cogent foundation for the application filed by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents (Royal Media Services Ltd, Standard Media Services Ltd and Nation Media Services Ltd.) before this apex appellate court. From the terms of this ruling, the orders of which we set out below, it will be evident that no matter is pending before this court, to be preserved by interim orders.”
Following this ruling, the Communications Authority of Kenya proceeded to implement the Supreme Court’s decision to ensure that the digital migration timetable was adhered to. I am made to understand that they served a notice to the three media houses to switch off their analogue transmitters by midnight on Friday 13th February 2015. The three media houses defied this, forcing the CA to seek warrants from the Magistrate’s Court to switch off the three media houses’ analogue transmitters. The CA did not switch off the digital transmitters of the three media houses. The CA did not ask any of the BSDs to remove the three media houses from their platforms.
In addition to switching themselves off the digital transmission, the three media houses opted to screen inaccurate and misleading messages in a deliberate effort to incite the public and portray the regulator in negative and bad light. Both switching themselves off the digital transmission and screening inaccurate messages is both illegal and in blatant breach of the conditions of their licensing. The government notes this with great concern and hopes the CA will take independent regulatory action on the same.
The conduct of the three media houses is contemptuous to the Supreme Court. It is irrational and perhaps intended to incite public opinion against the regulator and the government. Their antics are unbecoming of responsible investors in Kenya’s emerging dynamic and highly respected communication sector. If these acts are intended to manipulate and/or blackmail the government, Kenyan consumers and the regulator, we would like to categorically state on our part that we are not bothered or excited. We will not go back on digital migration. The three media houses like all of us in Kenya are not above the law. We expect responsibility on their part and will not accept to be blackmailed.
The government reiterates its commitment to support digital migration and ensure that Kenya joins the community of modern nations that will be at the cutting age of broadcasting technology and services by the world deadline of migration on 17th June 2015. In addition, the people of Kenya need to know that they, in their entirety, stand to benefit from digital migration, especially because:-
1. Digital broadcasting is new technology that provides opportunities for better and clearer broadcast signal. Kenyans will enjoy better and clearer TV in the digital era than in the analogue broadcasting.
2. Digital Migration will provide opportunities for many more investors interested in having television channels to do so. It opens up the broadcast space so that many Kenyan organisations, especially faith based institutions that have for far too long needed television broadcasting opportunities to air their content to do so.
3. Digital migration will provide unlimited opportunities for the development and distribution of local content. It will therefore open up and facilitate growth of the country’s creative industry.
4. Digital migration will create more job opportunities. Kenya’s creative potential is hardly tapped. Young Kenyans interested in advancing their creative careers have a historic opportunity awaiting them in the digital broadcasting era.
5. Digital Migration will enable us have much better and faster internet in Kenya because we will use the analogue spectrum currently held by analogue broadcasting to enhance 4th Generation internet connectivity.
These and many more benefits await the people of Kenya when we complete digital migration in June 2015. The government wishes to urge all Kenyans to embrace digital migration and all the new technologies to propel our country to the 21st century in all our spheres of life.
The government welcomes and encourages as many interested investors as possible to put their resources in the country’s communication sector. Those interested in television broadcasting should liaise with the regulator, who will be ready to facilitate them.
The government continues to steadfastly uphold the rule of law and jealously guard freedom of the press. Kenya is open for business and let us all match forward to the new era of digital broadcasting looking forward to the whole new world of opportunity, employment, economic growth and variety in television content in Kenya.
Sunday 15th February 2015
Fred Matiang’i, PhD – Cabinet Secretary