On Saturday 15 February 2015 Kenyans still watching KTN , NTV, QTV and Citizen channels dramatically saw the channels disappear starting with NTV followed by Citizen and Finally KTN and no the channels could not be found on pay TV channels either.
Startled viewers were left frantically hitting their remotes, adjusting their signals and calling their loved ones and contacts to find out what was happening.
This came in the wake of a ruling by the Communications Authority of Kenya by the Supreme Court on Friday 13th February 2015, on Petition number 14 of 2014 that had been brought before them by The Royal Media Services Ltd, the Standard Media Services Ltd and the Nation Media Services on digital migration in which they sought more time to set up their own digital migration infrastructure.
The Supreme court however ruled that “It is clear to us that, following the judgement of this Court, and the appropriate acts of compliance which have been summarised in this ruling, the stage was properly set for migration from analogue to the digital platform in broadcast transmissions, and there was, and is, a new national and international reality in that regard, to be adopted and internalised by all parties who have come before us. From the foregoing observation, and from our Ruling as a whole, it should be clear that there is in place no cogent foundation for the application filed by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents (Royal Media Services Ltd, Standard Media Services Ltd and Nation Media Services Ltd.) before this apex appellate Court. From the terms of this Ruling, the Orders of which we set out below, it will be evident that no matter is pending before this Court, to be preserved by interim Orders.”
The forceful switch off carried by Communications Authority of Kenya in the company of police was therefore done to ensure that the digital migration timetable was adhered to but in turn the three media houses have since not migrated to the digital platform causing some sort of blackout to Kenyan content for millions of viewers who like the stations and therefore a myriad of reactions for and against the black out.
While some Kenyans felt that the switch off was hurried and the three media houses should be given time to get their affairs in order so as to get a seamless transition, others felt that the time for migration had come.
A majority of Kenyans have been left confused as they stay in the dark wondering if they will be forced to have two set top boxes so as to access local content and international content. Meanwhile those not on pay TV are in the dark save for a few stations.
In his reaction Information and Communications Cabinet Secretary Fred Matinagi said : “The CA did not ask any of the BSDs to remove the 3 media houses from their platforms. In addition to switching themselves off the digital transmission, the 3 media houses opted to screen inaccurate and misleading messages in a deliberate effort to incite the public and portray the regulator in negative and bad light.”
Both switching themselves off the digital transmission and screening inaccurate messages is both illegal and in blatant breach of the conditions of their licensing. The government notes this with great concern and hopes the CA will take independent regulatory action on the same. The conduct of the 3 media houses is contemptuous to the Supreme Court. It is irrational and perhaps intended to incite public opinion against the regulator and the government.
Leader of the official opposition Raila Odinga said: “Jubilee must explain what its interests are in keeping Kenyans in information darkness and Kenyans must demand their right to information,” said Mr Odinga in a statement to newsrooms.
In a reply to Matiangi, the three media houses said: The three media houses have been broadcasting on ANALOGUE platform and the dismantling of the equipment by the CA in Limuru effectively switched off our transmission. We have NOT been broadcasting on digital and the application that was before the Supreme Court was about being afforded adequate time to order, import and install digital broadcast equipment.”
“The forceful shutdown of analogue broadcasting was clearly calculated at forcing the three media houses to avail their signal for distribution by the government-owned SIGNET and the government’s preferred Chinese-owned distributor Pan Africa Group PANG that also operates Pay TV service Star Times,” read a part of the statement.
“We note with concern that the statement by the Cabinet Secretary is laced with threats aimed at intimidating the three media houses into giving in to the contentious, pre-determined and altogether unacceptable position taken by the Communications Authority on digital signal distribution.
Finally, to our viewers, we regret the inconvenience caused by the unfortunate developments arising entirely from the gross mishandling of the digital migration process by the Communications Authority and other forces. The three media houses have been and will always remain committed to digital migration and we are doing everything possible to get your channels back on air,” read another part.
As the various parties squabble with accusations and counter accusations they forget a very important stakeholder; the consumer. S anyone out there addressing the concerns of the consumer as the prices of set top boxes, will they need two what about the local content they are missing?