Broadcasters battle over Kenya’s airwaves


On Friday 16 January Kenyan media houses Nation Media group, Standard Group and Royal Media Group launched a campaign warning users not to use digital broadcasting services GoTV and Startimes to broadcast their television channels.

In a television advert flighted on all stations, the broadcasters allege that GoTV and Startimes have been broadcasting their frequencies illegally, and that legal action will be taken against them.

Consumer federation of Kenya (Cofek) quickly responded to the advert by telling viewers to ignore the message.

Cofek said that it will call for a meeting to try and address the issue. "Cofek appeals to media houses to stop airing warning on @GOtvKenya @StarTimesKenya We have requested an urgent meeting," the federation said on its twitter account.

In response to the television advert, GOTV is adamant that they are operating within the law and that they will institute legal action against the broadcasters for defamatory statements and for misleading the public.

"The Supreme Court, in Supreme Court of Kenya at Nairobi Petition No.14 of 2014 Communications Commission of Kenya & 5 others v Royal Media Services Limited & 5 others by judgment delivered on 29 September 2014, affirmed that the 'must carry' rule does not infringe on the broadcasters' copyright," Felix Kyengo, General manager at GOTV said in a statement.

He added that, "The latest infomercial is not only defamatory of GOtv, misleading to the public but also contemptuous of the court orders stated above."

Startimes also refuted claims that they are operating illegally by broadcasting the Free-to-Air channels. "StarTimes will be taking legal action against this blatant action aimed at maligning the company," the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the three media groups, under the Africa Digital Network, are looking to ship in their own set top boxes with internet capabilty. They project that they will have over 1 million set top boxes by the end of March this year.

According to the broadcasters, their set top box will be cheapest and will have no monthly payments. The average price for their set top boxes will be Kshs 2500 (US$27) as compared to the regular FTA set top box at Kshs 5000 (US$54).

The media houses were given a digital broadcasting license by the Supreme Court after they appealed to have their own broadcasting frequencies. The license will enable them carry their own signals without going through third party companies such as digital signal broadcasters such as Signet and Startimes.