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Kenyan media takes digital licences battle to world court

Three leading media houses have taken the war over digital licences to the International Intellectual Property Rights Court.

Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and the Standard Group have given the government 14 days to address the issue or face proceedings in the Paris-based court.

The media houses through Mr Paul Muite wrote to the Attorney-General saying the decision to seek redress at the international court was reached after exhausting all options in Kenya.

“Our clients have exhausted domestic jurisdiction following the incomprehensible findings of the Supreme Court in a 2014 petition on this issue,” Mr Muite wrote.

The letter is copied to the Information and ICT Cabinet Secretary, CA Director-General, Pan African Network Group, Star Times Media and GOtv/Multichoice.

The media houses accuse the authority of open hostility towards Kenyan–owned companies and favouring foreign firms.

LOCAL INVESTORS

They describe the decision to withdraw digital licences for NTV, QTV, Citizen TV and KTN by the authority as calculated to force them out of business.

In a briefing at the Nation Centre, Nairobi on Friday, NMG Chairman Wilfred Kiboro – who spoke on behalf of the media houses – said the regulator was not making the playing field level.

“Such unilateral decisions will not only hurt the economy of this country but also scare local investors who want to put their money in the broadcasting industry,” Mr Kiboro said.

Mr Muite said the “must carry” regulations crafted by the authority had perpetuated violations of his clients’ rights.

He said the regulations were subsidiary and could not override an Act of Parliament.

The lawyer said there is nowhere in the world where pay tvs would be permitted to air programmes and content of free-to-air broadcasters without their consent or paying for it.