On Monday the Supreme Court cancelled the award by the Appeals Court in March of a digital distribution licence to Royal Media, Nation Media and the Standard Group. It also postponed digital migration until the Communication Authority of Kenya could consider local applications for a digital distribution licence.
On Wednesday Royal Media owner SK Macharia attacked Justice Ibrahim at a press conference.
Macharia said Royal Media was “greatly aggrieved” by the suggestion that its frequencies were obtained through political patronage in the 1990s. He said the company was portrayed “as a corrupt enterprise”.
He said that Royal Media obtained its radio and television broadcasting licenses in 1997 following a successful high court petition in 1995.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court corrected Macharia.
“In court, the judges merely shared the responsibility of pronouncement. No portion of the judgement can thus be attributed to a particular judge. The Supreme Court will not be drawn into the merits or otherwise of the public statement by Royal Media Services,” the judges said.
However documents filed at the Supreme Court confirm that Royal Media’s licences and frequencies may have involved political patronage.
Macharia applied for 20 radio frequencies and three TV frequencies on January 16, 2003, shortly after the general election that brought President Mwai Kibaki to power.
On January 31, Communication Commission of Kenya Director General Samuel Chepkonga assigned him 21 FM frequencies and one TV frequency. Chepkonga’s letter was copied to both Transport and Communication minister John Michuki and Tourism and Information minister Raphael Tuju.
Tuju wrote to Macharia on February 14 allowing him the new frequencies.
“Your request has been given due consideration and I am pleased to inform you that you are hereby granted a provisional broadcasting licence to cover the areas you had requested,” Tuju said.
The Supreme Court agreed with the argument by lawyers that it showed political patronage for Macharia to get 21 frequencies when many other applicants were on the waiting list.
In September 2006, Macharia asked a minister to direct CCK to settle out of court a case he had filed against the commission. In January 2000 Macharia filed a case against the CCK seeking damages for closing his stations. CCK filed a counter-claim in 2002
In 2006, Macharia wrote to the Information and Communication minister Mutahi Kagwe seeking his intervention.
“During this Narc Government, which has had the support of Royal Media Services, CCK has been hunting and harassing Royal Media Services with perhaps intention of closing it again,” Macharia wrote.
“I am requesting your ministry and the government to immediately stop the harassment of Royal Media Services Ltd by ordering CCK to settle out-of-court the cases in court against each other including settlement of legal fees claimed by CCK’s lawyers from Royal Media,” Macharia said.
However Kagwe declined to issue the orders to CCK.