The government through the Communications Authority of Kenya has withdrawn the temporary authorization granted to the Africa Digital Network consortium by the three media houses after they aired misleading and illegal informercials that purports Startimes and GOtv are illegally carrying their content thereby infringing on copyright and neighbouring rights.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Francis Wangusi, Director General CA said the Authority shall reposess the frequency spectrum resources allocated with immediate effect;
Additionally, the authority will decline to continue with the process of issuance of a Network Facilities Provider Tier 2 License for self-provisioning to the three media houses, pursuant to Gazette Notice Number 9088 dated 19th December 2014.
“This is on account of the above violations of the legal and regulatory framework. The process shall therefore await the ruling and determination of the Competition Authority of Kenya and the Board of the Communications Authority of Kenya on the violations by the three media houses,” said Wangusi.
Nation Media Group Limited, Standard Group Limited and Royal Media Group Limited have jointly been running a misleading advertisementon Television and Radio since Friday 16thJanuary 2015 instruct consumers not to purchase Startimes and GOtv pay-tv set-top boxes to watch CITIZEN Television, NTV, KTN and QTV.
The advertisement also alleged that the three media houses are the exclusive vendors of Free-To-Air set-top-boxes that can enable the public to view their channels to which the authority said it has neither received any application nor granted any type-approval of any set top box model from the three broadcasters, individually or collectively, for sale in Kenya.
It is therefore illegal to purport to advertise set-top-boxes that have not been type-approved by the Authority;
In light of the new developments, CA will Liaise with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) to bar the importation of set top boxes by the three media houses considering the purported set top boxes are not type-approved by the Authority; and also invite the Competition Authority of Kenya to investigate the cartel-like behavior and anti-competitive conduct and take appropriate regulatory remedies.
“The digital migration framework allows for the distribution of the ‘Free-to-Air’ signals on the digital platform under the “must-carry principle” . This was supported by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Kenya in September 2014 . It allowed for the availability of Free-to-Air channels to the public through all set-top-boxes (FTA and Pay TV). The advertisement dissuading consumers from purchasing set-top-boxes from other suppliers approved by the Authority is therefore misleading to the public and portrays anti-competitive conduct by the three media houses. Consumers need not be constrained to purchase a specific set top box to view the content of the three broadcasters whose content is Free-to Air,” said Wangusi.
“The withdrawal of the temporary self-provisioning authorization granted to the consortium and the repossession of the the allocated resources does not in any way prejudice the availability of the services of the three broadcasters. The broadcasters are at liberty to avail their content on the digital platform through the existing licensed Broadcast Signal Distributors,” he added.