By Balancing Act Africa
Published January 29, 2015
Kenya has issued temporary permits to three companies for commercial free-to-air television broadcasting.
The three—Acme Communications, Global Konnect and Number One TV—are expected to use the digital terrestrial broadcast signals of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)’s subsidiary Signet, Chinese-owned Pan Africa Network and Radio Africa Group’s Lancia Digital. This brings to 38 the number of free-to-air TV channels in Kenya.
This has come at a time when Kenya is set to switch from analogue to digital transmission.
A single frequency on the digital terrestrial TV broadcasting platform can hold up to 20 channels, widening spectrum resources. TV competition is expected to shift to content as opposed to wide reach.
Meanwhile, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) that regulates broadcasting frequencies in the East African country has withdrawn the temporary licence it had granted to a broadcasting consortium that brought Nation Media Group Limited (NMG), Royal Media Services Limited (RMS) and Standard Group Limited (SG) together under Africa Digital Network (ADN) for alleged gross violation of regulations.
CA said it withdrew the temporary authorisation granted to the ADN 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, Francis Wangusi, Director General of CA, said the Authority had repossessed the frequency spectrum resources allocated with immediate effect.
Additionally, Wangusi said, CA would 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 December 19, 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.
NMG, SG and RMS had jointly been running a misleading advertisement on Television and Radio since Friday, January 16, 2015 instructing 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 were the exclusive vendors of Free-To-Air set-top-boxes that could 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.
Saying it was illegal for ADN to purport to advertise set-top-boxes that had not been type-approved by CA, Wangusi said CA would 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 were not type-approved by CA. CA would also invite the Competition Authority of Kenya to investigate the cartel-like behaviour 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 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.