Now KBC directed to hand over Signet

Distribution

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation has been directed to relinquish to the National Treasury its shareholding in digital signal distributor Signet.

The management of the national broadcaster, which at 99 per cent shareholding owns Signet, held a crisis meeting on Monday to discuss the directive, which could cripple its operations. Signet became the first digital signal distributor in 2009.

KBC Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya Tuesday met the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Communication and Information and expressed reservations about the attempt to relieve the corporation of its shareholding.

The 99 per cent shareholding is held in trust by Mr Waihenya, on behalf of the corporation. The National Treasury holds the remaining one per cent.

The committee was told that Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich had written to the Attorney-General, seeking an opinion on the matter. The letter was copied to the corporation.

The letter formed the basis of the KBC board meeting, which, among other issues, discussed the consequences of relinquishing the shareholding as there was no mention of recompense.

Board Chairman Edward Musebe said Signet gives KBC a competitive advantage over other media houses. “If Signet is taken away, it is like taking away the competitive advantage that was meant to assist the corporation to get back on its feet,” he said. “Withdrawing the licence leaves the corporation without a platform of its own,” he said. Signet has 38 broadcasters on its platform.

Mr Waihenya, however, said the firm made a loss of Sh90 million monthly from running the digital platform. He said the rates paid by broadcasters were determined by the Communications Authority of Kenya but consultations on review were going on.

Officials of the second signal distributor, Pan Africa Network Group (Pang), also appeared before the committee but acting Chief Executive Deng Song failed to satisfactorily answer the MPs’ questions on its shareholding.

MPs questioned how Pang, registered on March 4, 2011, was able to get a licence within such a short period.

The committee consequently summoned company directors Xixing Pang and Zhang Junqi for further questioning.

Information submitted to the committee by the acting CEO indicates that Pang is owned by the Hong Kong-registered StarTimes China-Africa Digital Television Media, with 375,000 shares, Excel Magic International Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, with 25,000 shares and an individual with one per cent.

The company reportedly does not have a local shareholder, but is working to acquire one.

Mr Deng said the company had approached Nation Media Group, Citizen and KTN for local shareholding at the time they and others moved to court to challenge the digital migration arrangement.
He said Pang has a six-month timeline to acquire a local shareholder, which lapses next month.

Source: Daily Nation 10 March 2015