Cofek could be wrong in pursuing class action against StarTimes and GOtv
If you are on GOtv or StarTimes you must be aware that local channels specifically KTN, NTV, and Citizen have been missing in your channel list. If you have a set top box, you must have realized that the same channels are also missing on Signet too.
The fact that the channels are missing on GOtv and StarTimes has necessitated Cofek to consider class action against the two Pay TV providers. But is the problem really with GOtv and StarTimes? Why is Signet (KBC’s digital signal distributor) not part of the class action Cofek intends to pursue?
I have reached both StarTimes and GOtv to give their opinion in regards to the class action that Cofek is pushing for. They have a common ground in regards to this. According to them, it is the local channels that pulled their contents from the terrestrial distribution as a result of the court ruling that did three things:
- The court ruled that no digital signal distributor should distribute the content of the three TV stations without the consent of the TV Stations
- The three media houses will be given a license by the government to distribute their content
- The license to distribute free to air signal that was given to StarTimes was revoked
These rulings made the three media houses namely Standard Group, Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services to remove their contents from GOtv, StarTimes, and Signet distribution. According to both GOtv and StarTimes, discussions have been ongoing to have the channels back on their platforms but the media houses have been adamant in returning their contents to the terrestrial digital distribution platforms.
I went ahead and asked StarTimes if the nullification of their license to distribute the free to air channels is part of the reasoning behind the withdrawal of the content by the three media houses. The argument by StarTimes is that they too offer free to air set top boxes and if it is their license was the issue, then the three media houses have no reasons to withdraw their channels from Signet from which StarTime subscribers with the free to air set top boxes would still access contents by the three media houses.
Then I asked if the ruling that the three media houses should be given their own license to distribute their digital signals made them to withdraw their contents from the terrestrial digital distributors. I was told that this is a possibility as giving the media houses the license to air their content puts them in competition with Signet and StarTimes, but does not explain reasons why they would withdraw their contents from GOtv. For Signet and StarTimes, the media houses could be reasoning that they do not find any reasons to continue paying Signet (or even StarTimes if they did so) for airing their content yet soon they too will have a consortium for distributing their contents.
But the consortium to distribute the contents of the three media houses is not yet up and running, therefore removal of the contents by the three media houses from Signet does not make a lot of sense. What the three media houses have done is to deny the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans with decoders (StarTimes and GOtv) and set top boxes (Signet) the freedom to access information available on their platforms.
As Cofek pushes to pursue class action against GOtv and StarTimes, the consumer lobby body ought to understand that the problem is not with GOtv and StarTimes or even Signet, but the respective media houses that have withdrawn their contents from these pay tv and free to air digital signal distributors.
If there is someone who should be taken to court, then it is NTV, Citizen, QTV and KTN. But these guys have withdrawn their contents from the terrestrial digital tv distributors following the court of appeal ruling on digital migration.