CC image courtesy of Hana Kirana.
The Supreme Court of Kenya yesterday ruled that the warring parties in the digital migration case namely the Communications Authority of Kenya and three local media houses the Nation media group, Standard media group and Royal media services consult and come up with a new switch off date in 90 days.
The ruling overturned an earlier one made at the Court of Appeal that set the switch off date for September 30 and also directed that the CA consider the application for a digital distribution license by the three media houses afresh.
This court explained was because of patriotism to the country and Justice Willy Mutunga emphasized this by quoting popular Kenyan musician Ken wa Maria’s song, “These are my things, these are our things, and these are the fundamentals.”
Earlier, the Court of Appeal had directed NTV, KTN and Citizen TV be issued broadcast distribution licenses without going through a tendering process.
Speaking on behalf of the seven judge bench Mutunga said: “We are basically saying the interests of this country demand that there be dialogue and consultation because the country is bigger than the interests represented here.”
The warring parties are also supposed to report the outcome of their consultations.
“After 90 days please don’t come here telling us that you can’t sit and talk,” said Mutunga.
The Supreme Court also directed that CA to ensure that the BSD license issues to the Pan African Network Group Kenya Limited meets the constitutional and statutory requirements.
The Court of Appeal found that the license was issued after the August 2010 promulgation of the Constitution which required CCK to be independently constituted as set out in Article 34(5) but it was not as it was under government control and therefore should not have issued the license.
The Supreme Court availed that the said Article applied to the Media Council of Kenya, not the CCK and that the CCK was operating under the law that was in place prior to the promulgation of the Constitution which allows three years for the setting up of the said independent regulator.
“We are perturbed by the contents of Wangusi’s affidavit which appears to suggest that SIGNET has ceded its license operations to external corporate entities,” said Mutunga.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling by the Court of Appeal that pay television stations had infringed on the intellectual property rights of the three TV stations.
Reacting to the ruling ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said his ministry will comply with the ruling and will work with all stakeholders to ensure a speedy implementation of the Digital Migration process ahead of the global deadline of June 2015.
“We have taken note of the Supreme Court directive on the date of digital migration, we will consultatively work with all stakeholders to ensure that a new and hopefully final digital migration timetable is developed within the next 90 days as directed,” he said.
The three media houses through their lawyer Paul Muite have since termed the ruling satisfactory.
Tanzania was the first country in East Africa to switch from analogue to digital and is already done with the first phase. Rwanda on the other hand embarked on its third phase in July while Uganda has set the deadline for the switch off in December.