How to Commandeer a Digital Migration: PANG’s license Nullified, Cofek, Kenya’s Media Owners Association Jump for Joy

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Kenyan media owners were at sometime working up a foam, their reason? They had been strong armed in the digital migration process. This very capable group went ahead to bring down a media blackout upon TV viewers in the country – except for a few exceptions K24 among them. The situation changes today after the nation’s Media Owners Association along with COFEK (Consumers Federation of Kenya) had their lot changed by the Court of Appeal. In a ruling, the Appeals Court nullified PANG’s Broadcast Signal Distribution (BSD) license. PANG (Pan-African Network Group) would include Star Times Media who have played a big part in Kenya’s digital migration.

Cofek Secretary General, Japheth Ogutu, had all good things to say about the appeal court. “This afternoon’s ruling by the Court of Appeal is certainly a major win for the consumers, operators and other stakeholders on the broadcast media,” he says. “Indeed the consumer movement is emboldened and we hope other sectors shall take their lesson.”

At the time of the media blackout, there was a mix of opinion in the public arena on the media owner’s actions. The awarding of a BSD license to PANG was described as unfair in part due to members of the MOA being the biggest distributors of multi-media content in the country. It is worth noting that members of the MOA had at one time received an offer from the government to create a public private partnership for BSD which was duly rejected. Their most recent efforts however played on the perception that the CAK (Communications Authority of Kenya) never had the media owners’ (and Cofek’s) best interests at heart. The positive outcome of their suite at the Appeals Court has however swayed these view.

“It vindicates our long held view that in its’ current form, the CCK (and now CAK) is not the regulator envisaged under Article 34(3) of the Constitution. We are grateful that the Media Owners Association have pushed and won the fight we began in December 2012 to make the transition to digital broadcasting fair and independent to all stakeholders.” – Japheth Ogutu

It is expected that media owners will now receive their BSD license with PANG’s rights in this area having been nullified. “It will be futile for the Government to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court,” says Ogutu.

According to a statement, the Cofek official feels that this is an extinction level event for the ICT Cabinet Secretary – especially seeing as the government comes out with the short end of the deal upon the ruling.

“[...] it is only fair that the ICT Secretary resigns from office and that the regulator rescinds all major decisions it has made as the effect of the ruling has the potential to reverse all decisions made by the CCK since August 27, 2010 when the current Constitution was promulgated,”
Japheth Ogutu all guns blazing.

A final date has eventually been given for Kenya’s digital migration with this ruling – September 2014 – beating, 2015, the ITU’s deadline by just 3 months.