A case filed at the High Court by the three mainstream media houses challenging the government’s deadline for the switch to digital broadcasting could be the only hope that majority of Kenyans are banking on in order to watch TV this Christmas.
With just two days to the big switch, Nation Media Group, Standard Media Group and the Royal Media Services, through their lawyer Paul Muite, had earlier on submitted a plea at the High Court to compel Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to constitute a three judge bench which would deliberate and make a ruling on their suit due to the weighty issues raised.
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT FOR BROADCASTING
However, High Court judge David Majanja, who had ordered Muite to serve copies of the application to lawyers representing both sides of the case and further directed they both appear before the court yesterday for a ruling has declined to grant the application by the media houses.
“I think it is the first time that we are arguing out Article 3 which is the Constitutional right for broadcasting,” said Muite while making the request to the High Court.
The media houses consider the December 13thdeadline given by the government as unconstitutional and argue that the move will lock out many Kenyans from essential television services. They have sued the Attorney General Githu Muigai, Information Ministry, Communications Commission of Kenya, Signet Kenya Limited, Star Times Media Limited, Go TV Kenya Ltd and Pan African Network Group Kenya Ltd.
COFEK SUPPORTS MEDIA HOUSES PLEA
The Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) had backed the media houses plea and maintained that the plan to switch off analogue television is in bad faith and contravenes national values of public participation in policy formulation.
“The move is unreasonable, discriminatory and expensive to most consumers who cannot afford the required set boxes to receive digital signals,” said COFEK adding that the move will deny many Kenyans access to civic education and other important matters related to general elections and government policies.
TV SERVICES PRICED OUT OF REACH?
The pending migration is part of the government’s plan to make a transition from analogue transmission to digital and has been imminent since last year. Kenyans are required to buy set top boxes that will convert analogue signals to digital signals.
The fear is that many Kenyans would be locked out of the essential television services due to the prices of the set top boxes and stakeholders in the communications sector have urged the government to subsidize the prices.
The initial phase of the exercise will target Nairobi and its environs and its residents will be the first to be affected by the digital migration.
COFEK, INFOTRAK RESEARCH ON DIGITAL MIGRATION
According to a survey released by Cofek and Infotrak last week that sought to establish Nairobi’s preparedness for the digital TV switch, it emerged that TV is the most preferred channel of communication by majority of the respondents (46%) for consumer education on migration process. Swahili radio stations come second (21%) followed by vernacular radio stations (11%) which are mainly preferred by those with low levels of education.
The study also established that a majority (64%) of the respondents would prefer the switch-off of analogue TV signals to be executed in June 2014 while another majority (53%) preferred the Set Top Boxes to priced at Ksh 1000 or below.