By SAM ALFAN
Kenyans who have not yet bought set boxes intended to switch signals from analogue to digital were yesterday granted a temporary relief after the High Court temporarily stopped the intended migration.
High court judged David Majanja issued the orders, staying the switch off pending ruling of a case filed by three media houses challenging their signals from being switched off on Friday December 13.
However justice Majanja told parties today evening that he may deliver his verdict earlier if he finishes writing the ruling before the said date
He gave his decision after parties- Standard Group, Nation Media group and Royal Media, the Communication Commission of Kenya, West Media and COFEK wound up their submissions.
Earlier the judge dismissed an application the media houses seeking to have the case be heard by a three -judge bench saying the applicants had not raised weighty constitutional questions which need the intervention of a bench.
Lawyer Paul Muite had argued that the case was of great public interest and constitutional interpretation.
“In my views I can handle the petition and any party that is aggrieved can move to the appeals court as provided by the law,” ruled Majanja.
While submitting, lawyer Muite said Nation Media Groups’ CEO Linus Gitahi sworn statement showed that the Star Times had issued 5 per cent of their share holding to government officials in exchange of obtaining licensing unfairly.
Muite continued that a joint application for licensing by two media houses Nation Media and Royal media Group had been dismissed for lack of a bond of Sh 500, 000. He posed, “Can the two media housed lack the money even if it was in cash?”
He said the petitioners had arranged with the government to have two committees to oversee digital migration. One was to see on technical aspect, while the other to handle investors concerns. And the government acknowledged that investors had ploughed in Millions of money on infrastructure and controls 85 per cent of market share-if switched off could affect large public population.
That they agreed the migration would take off subject to being licensed to broadcast digital signals and also government avail set top boxes (SBTs) at affordable cost.
“We are not opposed to digital migration but we are questioning why the licensing is being done in a discriminatory manner,” Muite submitted.
He prayed for dual-Transmission of both analogue signals and digital signals, since the respondents in the case had not stated that they could be prejudiced.
He said Communications Commission Kenya (CCK) was not an independent institution free of political, commercial, social control to be allowed to manage the signal .
But Star times lawyer objected opposed the arguments saying they had followed the due process in obtaining the tender
COFEK lawyer Henry Kurauka submitted that the economic timing of the switch off was wrong
“The switch off date is being hurried yet the worlds date is set for the year 2015, so why hurry,” Kurauka posed.
COFEK said the switch off date coincided with the Kenya at 50 celebrations as well as the funeral requiem mass and eventual burial of world icon Nelson Mandela, and will deny people right to information.
According to him, the Digital Migration is a process and not an event.
“Communications commission of Kenya cannot afford to use; ‘Switch off ‘interchangeably with ‘migration,’ the latter is a process which we are rooting for,” he said.