So what’s really happening in the strange case of the shutting down by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) of Citizen TV transmitters and six radio stations on Saturday? Is it just regulation in action, political shenanigans, skullduggery or cock up? Certainly not all the truth has so far been revealed in the newspapers.
Here’s some of the story so far, as much as it can be divined, some of which may have a bearing on the matter, some not, depending who you believe.
ROYAL MEDIA SERVICES
Royal Media Services (RMS) is a large media house that owns, among many other media outlets, Citizen TV and radio, and RMS is owned by Mr S.K. Macharia who in turn is staunch ODM supporter and a leading member of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) led by Raila Odinga.
COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION OF KENYA
The CCK is ‘the regulatory authority for the communications sector in Kenya’ with responsibility for, among other things, ‘licensing all systems and services in the communications industry, including telecommunications… and broadcasting’, and, ‘managing the country’s frequency spectrum and numbering resources’. The Director General of the CCK is a Mr Francis Wangusi.
On December 3 the CCK issued a legal notice to RMS regarding 17 ‘illegal’ transmitters, six of which were the ones shut down on Saturday.
Last month Parliament adopted a report from two House committees which accused the CCK of delaying action in getting court warrants against RMS.
TRANSMITTERS SHUT DOWN
On Saturday the CCK shut down six broadcast transmitters owned by RMS in Nanyuki, Narok, Migori, Nakuru and Mwingi ‘and other areas’ citing as the reasons for doing so that they were being operated without licenses and using unauthorised (or ‘grabbed’) frequencies.
In addition to the alleged illegality of the transmitters, Mr Wangusi said they were causing interference to other broadcasters and threatened Kenyan airspace by disrupting communications between pilots and control towers at main airports.
Is that the true story then? Not according ODM secretary-general Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Quoted in this weekend’s Sunday Nation, Anyang’ Nyong’o accused “part of the government” of attacking RMS. “Part of the government has mobilised itself to demobilise Royal Media Service because Mr Manchuria is a member of the Cord Summit”, he said.
However, the Jubilee alliance has also criticised the CCK’s action in shutting down the transmitters saying that it will ‘interfere with the free flow of information’.
Jubilee coalition running mate William Ruto said that “this is not the time to close down any station”. It has also been suggested that areas broadcast to by the transmitters were more likely to be Jubilee-supporting come the election.
MEDIA MAX POACHING
Now add to this mix a fact not reported in the papers.
Last week, rival media house Media Max, major shareholders the Kenyattas and owners of The People newspaper and K24, among other outlets, ‘poached’ 30 journalists and technicians from RMS who start work at Media Max today. Coincidence?
HIGH NOON AT HIGH COURT
Yesterday the High Court barred the CCK from shutting down any more transmitters operated by RMS. The two parties, RMS and CCK, will appear before Mr Justice Majanja today at noon to hear the case “before drastic action is taken”.
Confused? So is the Kenya Forum. Let’s see what Mr Justice Majanja has to say. More on this subject later, no doubt.