Kenyan broadcasters finally get digital licences

Three Kenyan media houses Royal Media, Nation Media Group (NMG) and the Standard Group have been awarded a digital broadcasting licence according to orders from the Court of Appeal sitting in Nairobi.

This follows a tumultuous court battle that halted Kenya's digital migration from December 2012.

Since the journey to digitise broadcasting in the country the media houses have pushed to get a licence to digitally broadcast their content and not to go through a third party.

The ruling also gives a reprieve to the local broadcasters as the court has also granted them time to prepare for the digital switchover, which now has been pushed to 30 September 2014.

"In the view of the appellants massive investment in the broadcast industry, we direct that the independent regulator constituted as stated above do issue a BSD (Broadcast Signal Distribution) licence to the appellants without going through the tendering process upon meeting the terms and conditions set out in the appropriate law and applicable to other licences," Justice Roselyne Nambuye, one of the three bench judges in the court of appeal stated in the ruling.

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) issued a digital licence to Startimes broadcasting through their company Pan-African Network Group, which did not go down well with the local broadcasters.

Startimes will now have to bid again for a third digital broadcasting licence in the country. The court ordered that Startimes be compensated for their loss before the bidding process begins.

The three local broadcasters will now have a say how their content is distributed through the digital signal in their hands.

Stephen Mutoro the secretary general of Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), hailed the ruling in his opinion piece on Sunday Standard Newspaper on March 30th: "Since the current FTA channels would not go through an entirely independent distributor means that quality will be enhanced and the costs saved in annual subscriptions would be ploughed back to the consumer - either in acquiring the STBs or lower advertising costs."