Appeal Court Stops Migration to Digital Television Transmission in Kenya

Judges at the Court of Appeal have granted an injunction on plans to cease analogue television transmission in Nairobi.

The much debated and anticipated migration to digital terrestrial television had been given a green light by the country’s High Court last week.

However, the petitioners–three local television operators–pushed the case to the Appeal Court and were granted a hearing.

The Appeal Court Judges ruled their case to be valid. Therefore the court has ordered the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Ministry of Information to stop the move, which only began on Monday last week.

President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kihara Kariuki said “We are restraining the second and third respondents from switching of the frequencies’, broadcasting spectrums, and broadcasting services and if already switched off to reinstate the same pending the hearing and determination of the appeal on or before 6 February 2014.”

About half a million television sets are reported to have gone off in Nairobi due to the enforcement of the directive last week. Sales of analogue set-up boxes are also reported to have spiked since the transmission black out commenced.

The petitioners–Standard Group, Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services–argue that the enforcement of the transmission migration will lead to a loss in revenue for them as they have not been granted digital transmission licenses. Meanwhile, they say their competitors have been illegally rebroadcasting their feed on the new digital networks.

The High Court had dismissed these claims regarding abuse of the petitioner’s intellectual copyright in its ruling last week. Also, the Communications Commission of Kenya had dismissed claims that the petitioners were not granted digital broadcasting licenses. They say the petitioners were granted digital transmission licenses twice, but turned them down on both occasions. It is unclear why the petitioners turned the licenses down, if indeed they were issued.

Several Kenyan officials have criticised the communication commission’s “poor” handling of the migration to digital terrestrial transmission. In defence of the commission, Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai is reported to have recently remarked that the case by the petitioner’s is somewhat hypocritical as they were represented on the committee that agreed on the migration to digital transmission earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Information, Communications and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has revealed that the “ministry will unfailingly and unreservedly comply with the Court of Appeal order halting digital migration.”

The suspension of the planned discontinuation of analogue television transmission is reported to have come as a relief to many residents of Nairobi–many of whom had to contend with either buying a new television set or a set-up box for their analogue television sets.

There is no inclination of whose favour the Judges would rule in February next year in this case, which has been postponed since the 13th of this month.

Kenyan authorities were reportedly planning to have the entire country migrated to digital terrestrial television by June 2014, one year ahead of the global deadline.

For now, residents of Nairobi are content to celebrate the reprieve and enjoy their holidays with some television entertainment.

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