After about two months of protest against the order to broadcast free-to-air channels, pay-TV providers will now have no other option but to abide by the new rule.
The Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) gave a directive back in March this year to StarTimes and GoTV to grant access to free-to-air channels on their set-top boxes. This exclusive order was followed by a number of complaints from Kenyans of being barred from accessing channels transmitted from FTA (Free Trade Agreement) signals like PANG, Signet, Bamba and ADN if they failed to pay for their regular subscriptions.
Two years ago when these firms received their licences, they were required to broadcast these channels no matter what but later on blocked them from anyone who hadn’t paid for their subscribers. Well, it seems like the directive rubbed them the wrong way as it was followed by a lawsuit to challenge it.
The court battle pitted MultiChoice, Wananchi Group Kenya Limited, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), and the Communication Authority. Unfortunately, the High Court judge threw the subscription-based TV services sector into a spin directing them to be open and operable between networks as initially ordered.
This was followed by an appeal that they now lost as well. In the case that was heard by justices William Ouko, Asike Makhandia, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu and Fatuma Sichale, the company argued that Justice Ngugi of the High Court ought to have restricted herself to the licensing of signal distribution.
However, the five-judge bench ruled that Multichoice had failed to provide substantial evidence to warrant overturning of the High Court judgment.
“Therefore, on a full consideration of the material on record and arguments before us, I have concluded that no grounds have been presented to us to warrant interference with the learned judge’s exercise of discretion,” ruled Justice Ouko.
This will now mean that Multichoice’s GoTV, Wananchi’s Zuku as well StarTimes will have no other choice but to follow the order that was made by the CA about two months ago.