Kenya: CCK targets more Royal Media TV frequencies

Regulation & Policy

The Communication Commission of Kenya is set to shut down seven more broadcast transmitters belonging to Royal Media Services, just months after another crackdown and an ongoing legal tussle.

The regulator put a public notice on unauthorised use of frequencies by Citizen TV in Nanyuki, Menengai hill, Narok, Maili nne in Nyahururu, Kilifi, Kitui and Mwingi.

CCK has given 30 days to the company to stop using the frequencies or it will take the measures at its disposal. Director general Francis Wangusi said on the phone the seven transmitters are new discoveries made in its recent audit.

"We will use our regulatory power to shut down these transmitters," he said. The self-allocated frequencies, according to Wangusi, are on the reserved guard bands. A guard band is an unused part of the radio/TV spectrum between allocated bands, for the purpose of preventing interference.

So even if RMS rightly applied for the frequencies, they are not available for allocation to any operator. According to the Kenya Information and Communications act, Cap 411A, operation of radio services without a licence is an offense that attracts a fine of Sh5 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

In February, the Commission switched off 17 unauthorised transmitters operated by RMS, seized equipment and sought from the office of Director of Public Prosecution to start criminal proceedings against the proprietor S.K. Macharia.

RMS moved to court to stop CCK from shutting down more frequencies, return the seized equipment and halt the criminal proceedings, but it lost the bid.

Justice Lydia Achode ruled that the commission had acted within the law in seizing the illegal transmitters. "We have the evidence against him, we are expecting the DPP to take them to court," Wangusi said.

This is not the first time, RMS and CCK are at loggerheads. CCK says between 2008 and 2012, RMS acquired 24 frequencies illegally which are still in operation because of a standing court injunction on it by RMS.

CCK adds earlier (2002- 2006) the company had grabbed 77 frequencies. These were regularised after government intervention. The annual fees for TV is Sh360,000 while for radio it is Sh136,000 for each frequency.