Top media firms to protest CAK move

By James Ratemo, Nairobi, Kenya

Three top media houses in Kenya have faulted the Communications Authority of Kenya’s move to withdraw their permit  for digital TV frequencies.

In a press briefing, the three media firms; Standard Media Group (Owner of Kenya Television Network –KTN, and Radio Maisha FM), Royal Media Services (Owner of Citizen TV and horde of radio stations) and Nation Media Group (Owner of NTV, QTV, QFM and Nation FM) said they will move to court to challenge CAK’s decision to withdraw their temporary authorisation  for the roll out of their own digital broadcast signal distribution platform ( self-provisioning).

The broadcasters said they would proceed to the Paris-based International Intellectual Property Rights Court if the local courts fail to grant them a fair hearing.

The regulator also said it would collaborate with the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Bureau of Standards to stop the importation of set-top boxes by the three media houses, saying they are not type-approved by CAK.

The trio had, through a TV commercial, claimed that two pay TV firms, StarTimes and GoTv are broadcasting their free-to-air content without consent.

The media houses said GOtv and StarTimes have been charging viewers to watch content fully funded by NTV, KTN, and Citizen.

In other words the trio were saying StarTimes and GOtv are“reaping where they have not sowed”.

However CAK cracked the whip saying the three media firms were engaged in uncompetitive tendencies and were misleading the public.

CAK’s move was supported by the Consumer Federation of Kenya who also faulted the trio for dragging analogue to digital broadcasting transition.

In a joint statement, the affected media houses said CAK was siding with foreign companies who are charging Kenyans for Free-to-Air channels.

“The decision to instill strict discipline among ICT industry operators without fear or favour in line with Article 34 of the Constitution,” said Cofek in a statement.

On Wednesday CAK withdrew temporariry authorization granted to the consortium by the three media houses (under the consortium identified as Africa Digital Network).

CAK was responding to an ongoing squabble between the media firms and the two pay TV companies which came out through a TV infomercial.

The advertisement alleges that Startimes and GOtv are illegally carrying their content thereby infringing on copyright and neighbouring" rights. The advertisement went farther to instruct consumers not to purchase Startimes and GOtv pay-tv set-top boxes to watch CITIZEN Television, NTV, KTN and QTV.

However StarTimes and GOtv went to court and got an injunction to stop the advertisement from airing.

The three media houses obliged and pulled the advertisement off air but insisted that viewers were not being told the truth about the said set-top-boxes distributed by GOtv and StarTimes.

According to the media houses, the regulator set the digital migration deadline for Nairobi on December 31, barely two weeks after the trio was allocated the frequency on which to broadcast their digital signal on December 15.

“This means the media houses had only two weeks prepare for the transition through ordering and import required equipment.

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