PRESS STATEMENT ON THE SHUT DOWN OF ROYAL MEDIA SERVICES BROADCAST TRANSMI1TERS
The Commission has in the last two days shut down 17 Royal Media Services’ broadcast transmitters in 11 different sites or locations of the country that were being operated using unauthorized frequencies and without the required licences in blatant breach of the law.
Section 35 of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998, outlaws the setting up and operation of communications apparatus without authorization from CCK.
The 17 transmitter stations were located in Narok, Menengai Hill (Nakuru), Mukuyuni (Makueni), Nanyuki, Karue Hill (Embu), Vuria Hill (Taveta), Gatare (Murang’a), Migori, Enchoro Hill (Sotik), Mwingi, and Mabrui (Malindi).
The Commission issued a 30 - day notice to Royal Media Services to cease operating the unauthorized stations on 3rd December 2012, which this broadcaster ignored and continued to transmit broadcast signals from the 17 transmitter stations in total disregard of the law.
The 17 transmitters in question were being operated using self-assigned or ‘grabbed’ frequencies. Indeed, some of the transmitters were located in non-designated broadcasting sites, and were causing harmful interferences to other duly licensed and compliant broadcasters.
In some instances, these interferences were so intense that the services of the affected broadcasters were rendered completely inoperable.
More disturbing, the safety of our airspace has in recent times come under threat as these illegal transmitter stations have on a number of occasions caused interferences to radio communication between pilots and the control tower.
In this regard, the Commission has received numerous complaints from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority as well as from our national carrier, Kenya Airways, about threats to the safety of our airspace due to interferences emanating from these illegal transmitters.
The erection of transmitters, particularly on high-altitude areas without the required authority also puts the safety of helicopters and small aircraft which usually fly at low altitude at the risk of crashing into the masts.
The National Environment Management Agency has raised concerns that the towers have been erected without carrying out environmental impact assessment as required by the law.
It is important to note that the Commission is the only state organ charged by law with the responsibility of managing the country’s frequency spectrum resources.
Management of the frequency spectrum is critical in ensuring orderly exploitation of this scarce and limited resource. All spectrum users, therefore, are required to operate under a licence issued by CCK and which must be kept in force through adherence to the operational parameters stipulated in the licence.
Frequency spectrum is a national resource belonging to the people of Kenya, which must be managed centrally to ensure optimal and orderly use as well as to avoid interferences among various spectrum users.
The 17 illegal transmitter stations that were shut down over the weekend are not the only ones that Royal Media Services has allocated itself.
Indeed, there other 22 FM and 2 TV frequencies that the said broadcaster assigned himself between 2008 and 2012, and which the Commission has been injuncted by the courts from taking any action pending the hearing of the appeal arising from our notice to the said broadcaster on 17th May 2012.
The Commission has attempted to engage Royal Media Services to cease self-appropriation of spectrum without success.
In 2006, the Commission, after consultations with the relevant government organs, regularized a total of 67 FM and 10 TV frequencies that Royal Media Services had acquired in the same manner between 2002 and 2006 on the understanding that the broadcaster would henceforth cease using unauthorized frequencies and deploying transmitters in non-designated broadcasting sites.
Contrary to this agreement, Royal Media Services has continued allocating itself frequencies and erecting masts in non-designated broadcasting sites in total disregard of the law and our regulatory notices.
We cannot sit by as the ICT sector law is being derogated with reckless abandon at the risk of compromising on the safe operation of aviation services, and jeopardizing investments in the ICT sector.
We have a mandate to execute, and execute we shall without fear or favour.
The implications of unauthorized use of spectrum are quite adverse and include the following:
- It increases incidences of harmful interferences to other spectrum users including aviation, thus presenting a threat to safety of life. This may result in Kenya being boycotted/blacklisted by airlines leading to extensive losses in tourism and other economic activities including investment;
- It amounts to an act of impunity and flies in the face of the regulatory requirement to provide an equal platform for all players;
- It denies the Commission the spectrum resources to address plurality and diversity and to cater for devolution requirements as envisaged in the constitution.
For purpose of clarity, I wish to note that the Commission has not switched off any frequencies that have been assigned legally to Royal Media Services or to any other licensee nor those that are subject to court cases.
We only focused on frequencies that Royal Media Services had assigned itself in total disregard of the law.
I also wish to note that this matter has been a subject of debate in parliament in light of the grave implications of use of unauthorized spectrum to the safety and integrity of our airspace, and protection of investments in the ICT sector.
Francis W. Wangusi
Communications Commission of Kenya
Communications Commission of Kenya