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Legal Battle Continues to Trail Kenya’s Switch to Digital Frequencies

Kenya’s Supreme Court has directed that analog and digital signals be allowed to run simultaneously in the meantime in its ruling on a suit brought before it.

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The Supreme Court of Kenya has waded into the dispute between the Communications Authority of Kenya and three companies over whether the media houses could continue beaming analog signals after the country’s switch to digital. The ruling was given on a suit brought before the court on December 30 2014 seeking the extension of the digital migration deadline due to their inability to meet up with the requirements in time.

The applicants in the case were Citizen TV, NTV and KTV who the Communications Authority has claimed would be given an unfair edge in light of the verdict. Such a competitive edge it said could manifest itself in revenue streams accruing from advertisements. Counsel representing the Communications Authority of Kenya, Wambua Kilonzo, said that permitting the three media companies in the suit to operate on both analog and digital frequencies would be disadvantageous to the eight other media firms operating on only digital frequencies.

The three media houses in their application to the court had prayed the court to push back the commencement of digital migration by as much as four months to allow media houses the necessary time needed to acquire all the relevant equipment required for the switch to digital broadcasting. They argued that at the time proposed for the switch over to digital, it would not be possible for them to broadcast on digital due to a lack of infrastructure. Further, the media houses claimed that the Communications Authority of Kenya had only made one of four frequencies expected available to them. The frequencies, they said, are fundamental to efforts being made to finalize the purchase of transmitters with inbuilt capacity for digital transmission.

The ruling of the Supreme Court was given by a two-judge sitting of the court. The court had ordered the Communications Authority of Kenya to allow the three media houses continue to broadcast on the analogue spectrum until their application for an extension on the migration schedule was deliberated upon by a full sitting of the court.

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