Saturday, February 2, 2013

Digital TV switch-over talks hit a snag

CCK’s director of consumer and public affairs Mutua Muthusi. He says Thursday meeting which the regulator invited consumer lobby, Cofek, was not meant to deliberate on digital migration. File | NATION

CCK’s director of consumer and public affairs Mutua Muthusi. He says Thursday meeting which the regulator invited consumer lobby, Cofek, was not meant to deliberate on digital migration. File | NATION  NATION

By CHARLES WOKABI [email protected]

Talks between the Communications Commission of Kenya and a consumer lobby intended to agree on a new timeline for digital migration have failed to start after fresh disagreements emerged between the warring parties.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) yesterday said the two parties are yet to begin talks more than two weeks after a high court ruling ordered them to come up with an agreeable date on the switch off of the analogue broadcast signal.

In a phone interview, Cofek secretary-general Stephen Mutoro said his lobby had snubbed a meeting called by CCK on Thursday after it learned that the regulator was bringing on board other stakeholders to the table contrary to the court ruling.

“They called us to a meeting on Thursday but they invited other parties. We are the only group that went to court to block the migration and the court order was that CCK holds discussions with Cofek. We don’t understand why we are involving other people in the name of stakeholders,” Mr Mutoro said.

Committed to talks

In a quick rejoinder, the regulator maintained it has been and still is committed to hold talks with the lobby group as per the ruling. The CCK said the Thursday meeting was on a completely different topic and Cofek should have attended.

“It was very clear even in the invitation letter that we sent to Cofek that the meeting was not about digital migration. We have not called for any discussion on the digital migration,” CCK director of consumer and public affairs Mutua Muthusi said.

“Our lawyers are still studying the ruling to come up with a position and we are committed to have an agreement before the February 20th deadline given by the high court,” Mr Mutua said.

Non-elected officials

CCK director-general Francis Wangusi had on January 15 told the Nation that the commission was setting up a team to hold meetings with the Cofek.

Cofek was also reacting to sentiments by the ministry of Information and Communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo on a public website that the government can only hold consultations with stakeholders, not Cofek which has non-elected officials.

“The constitution dictates that we consult with stakeholders. We cannot therefore have talks with Cofek which has non-elected officials.  We shall, however, have consultations with all stakeholders.  If we continue to give latitude to Cofek, we shall one time regret because in my view they will take up on everything.

“We have so much unfair trade (which is what Cofek should be doing) in Kenya that we need more than 10 consumer organisations but our current consumer groups have not understood their mandate,” Dr Ndemo wrote on Kictanet.

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