Who’s who between Communications Authority of Kenya and Competition Authority of Kenya?
So, today, Daily Nation decided to lead the back page with the news that the three media houses that run KTN, Citizen and NTV will be importing over 1 million of their own set top boxes to retail at about Sh2500 by end of March.
150,000 of them will be launched within this month.
It sounds like big news and indeed, occupies a prominent space in the paper until, wait, haven’t there been set top boxes being sold in the country on the streets, shops, supermarkets everywhere?
Yes, but belonging to Multichoice GOTV, Startimes and independent set top box vendors.
So, why is DN packaging its plans as big news?
Precisely because acting against the spirit and letter of the Kenya Communications Amendment Act (2009) as well as other Restrictive Trading countermeasures, the three outlets have been stifling information about the existence of other players in the digital migration field even as they seek to tie up digital migration in court.
In the meantime, they are importing their own equipment and planning to use their platforms to exclusion of others to market themselves.
This is illegal.
The Communications Authority of Kenya must begin to enforce the regulations and demand that these media houses, accord the same amount of fair coverage to all players in the digital migration arena or risk losing their signal distribution license.
Licenses must come with terms and conditions and one of those should be that you cannot use existing licenses to unfairly black out competition.
So far both the regulator and the other players have been very tolerating of this consortium but it should be clear to them that it doesn’t mean that they cannot be held up in the same courts of law they are using.
Other Free to Air channels like Kiss, K24, Family, GBS etc can contest the award of the signal distribution license to a cartel that has shown it is willing to abuse its market power to retain market share.
Vertical integration of media houses : – TV, Radio, Newspaper can also be challenged to enforce fair competition not to have the newspapers be used by their owners to advertise the consortium’s set top boxes while refusing to carry adverts for rivals platforms like GoTV or Bamba TV?
Both the Competition Authority and the CAK have a responsibility to speak up on this issue.
Cofek, in the meantime after wreaking havoc in the migration process in 2013, have been unusually quiet in the face of very anti-consumer behaviour by the three media houses.