BY SAM ALFAN.
Supreme Court has suspended the analogue- digital migration schedule that was set to take place in Nairobi at the end of this year.
The decision was made today, after three media houses, KTN, NTV and Citizen TV asked to be given more time to set up their platforms.
The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the three media houses be granted distribution licenses in the spirit of fair competition, a move that enabled them be able to compete with other distributors.
The deadline has already been moved severally this year and with the worldwide deadline fast approaching, will give Kenyans lesser time to prepare for the switch.
Last week, Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal granted the orders sought by The Standard Group (SG), Royal Media Services (RMS) and Nation Media Group (NMG) who filed the application arguing that there were issues yet to be ironed out even as the deadline approached.
Their lawyer Paul Muite told the court that the deadline set by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) did not comply with the three-month period given by the Supreme Court for negotiations.
The three media houses KTN, NTV and Citizen will continue to operate on analogue system pending the hearing and determination of a case where they are seeking Communications Authority of Kenya not to cancel their analogue licenses for a period of time.
However while objecting to their case, CAK lawyer told the supreme court that the three media houses are having undue competitive advantage over other players in Nairobi who have already complied and switched off to the digital platform.
Out of eleven broadcasters it is emerging that only eight including Kenya Broadcasting Corporation have migrated to digital platform in Nairobi.
However three media houses are yet to migrate and they moved to court seeking more time with their lawyer Paul Muite arguing that they need time to put in place infrastructure in terms of transmitters and other equipment to enable them to transmit digital signal.
Opposing application Communications Authority of Kenya through its lawyer Kilonzo Wambua says that the three media houses are on both digital and analogue platforms and that they are using unorthodox means to gain unfair advantage over the other broadcasters who have already switched off their analogue systems in Nairobi.
The Supreme Court however made a ruling concerning the cancellation of analogue licences and said that although the court has not barred digital migration but it is imperative that the case be determined first before the three media houses can move to digital platform.
The date of the hearing of the case will be determined on a priority basis with the global deadline set in five months time. This comes as the three digital signal distributors have been authorized to develop national infrastructure in the country to facilitate migration to digital broadcasting.
The latest addition was a consortium of local media owners who have had a long battle to get their own license to caution their businesses after the shift.
Local broadcasters had earlier expressed fears the transition from analogue signals would heavily impact on their overall advertising revenues-the mainstay of most media stations.
Key functions of these distributors include managing its systems, distribution of multimedia services to consumers on behalf of broadcasters and provide billing systems for pay tv operators.
Signet, a subsidiary of state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) was the first to get full authority to broadcast and distribute digital terrestrial signals in the country.
The distributor has a total of 35 local channels on its platform to include a host of gospel television stations, music, vernacular, education and general viewing as well radio stations.
It was launched Dec. 2009 by the government but faced financial challenges to lock it from improving capacity to efficiently roll out its services.
The state owned distributor had a bigger budget to expand infrastructure amid low revenue collections.
Signet was unable to raise Sh 4 billion needed by then to roll out national infrastructure, limiting its reach to Nairobi and environs alone.
Communication Authority (CA) of Kenya (formerly CCK) was forced to open up the digital TV market to private investors to help meet its digital migration obligation and meet the global deadlines for switch off.
Two years later, a Chinese company, Pan Africa Network Group that boost of over 700 million viewers in Asia and Africa won the tender that attracted five contenders.
Africa Link Agencies, Signal Distributors Ltd, Globecast Africa, Mayfox Ltd, and a consortium of local broadcasters contested for the tender.
The Chinese firm was given three conditions to comply with for an assurance to the government that it will help government achieve its target before it start operations in the country.
It was to show proof that it has capacity to mop up enough resources to fund development of infrastructure and provide national coverage.
The Chinese investor was also to open up its platform to allow local channels use its infrastructure to relay their programmers’ to audience.
Digital coverage in the country has since surpassed 70 percent of the population cover, making it ready for the country to switch off analogue TV sets in the planned phased approach.
Nairobians will continue enjoying analogue television services pending the hearing of the suit.