CAK defends analogue shutdown

By James Ratemo, Nairobi, Kenya

Three Kenyan TV media houses have themselves to blame for being off the airwaves following shutdown of analogue broadcasting in Nairobi and other major towns, the Communications Authority of Kenya has said.

A tough talking Director General Francis Wangusi has accused three media houses for trying to hoodwink Kenyans into believing the authority is behind their woes saying the trio are resisting change whose time has come.

"The three media houses have ability to broadcast on the digital platform... we switched them off for defying orders and for shutting normal programming," said Wangusi in a televised interview Monday night on national broadcaster, KBC."

Three media houses, Nation (NTV and QTV), Royal Media (Citizen TV) and Standard Group (KTN) have been transmitting analogue signals after obtaining temporary orders from the Supreme Court to continue doing so until their case was determined.

But following a ruling by a full bench of the Supreme Court that migration deadlines remain as set by the regulator, CAK forcibly switched off the three media houses on Saturday afternoon for failing to comply with the directive.

In Nairobi and major towns, the deadlines to migrate from analogue to figital broadcasting had been set for 31 December 2014 and February 2, 2015.

The third phase of the migration will be on 30 March when outlying towns like Namanga, Voi, Kapenguria Garissa, Kabarnet and Migori will be finally switched off the analogue platform.

Sitting in Nairobi last Friday, the Supreme Court issued this ruling:

(i)  That the analogue switch-off timelines remain as scheduled by the Authority

(ii)  That the Supreme Court has withdrawn orders earlier issued to allow the three broadcasters to continue broadcasting on the analogue platform

(iii)  That the Authority restores the self-provisioning authorization and the requisite frequencies issued to the three media houses.

The three media house are yet to restore their programming accusing CAK of being combative partisan in resolving the stalemate.

Under the umbrella of Media Owners Association, the three besieged media houses say they want more time to roll out their digital infrastructure thus should be allowed to remain in the analogue for the time being.

But since CAK confiscated their analogue transmission equipment from Nairobi's Limuru station, the trio are off air.

The Kenya Union of Journalists joined the fray on Monday urging CAK and the affected media houses to discuss and agree so as not to jeopardise the jobs of journalists.

According to Wangusi Kenya has over 40 TV stations on the digital platform and energies should be directed at producing content rather than fighting for signal distribution.

Kenya has two licenced public signal distributors: Signet (subsidiary of national broadcaster KBC) and china owned Pan African Network Group (PANG).

Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and Standard Group also have a self-provisioning signal distribution licence which they are yet to operationalize due to winding court cases.

Meanwhile KBC and Mediamax's K24 have had a field day in covering news since Saturday with the absence of NTV,QTV, KTN and Citizen TV.

Kenyans have also taken to social media to demand that CAK ensures the pay TV stations fo not charge viewers for free-to-air channels.

As things stand StarTimes and GoTv charge a monthly fee for their pay TV stations but CAK has a rule that they should include at least five free-to-air stations which must remain on-air even if subscribers fail to pay up monthly subscriptions.

However this is not happening and viewers are forced to pay up to watch even the free-to-air stations, a reality that has made the three besieged broadcasters to protest and demand payment for their copyrighted programs aired by pay TV stations.

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