Court of Appeal Rejects Multichoice’s Appeal on Sale of Locked Set-Top Boxes


court declares

Subscription television service providers will no longer lock out competitors from using their set-top boxes to broadcast content, reports The Standard.

This is thanks to a judgment that was passed by Court of Appeal judges where they threw out MultiChoice Limited’s appeal which challenged the High Court’s judgment on the sale of locked set-top boxes.

Justice Mumbi Ngugi from the High Court directed that all set-top boxes be open and operable between networks. However, MultiChoice decided to move the case to the Court of Appeal. The company argued that Justice Ngugi ought to have restricted herself to the licensing of the signal distribution.

The case was heard by a 5 judge bench which included justices William Ouko, Asike Makhandia, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu and Fatuma Sichale.

“Therefore, on a full consideration of material on record and arguments before us, I have concluded that no grounds have been presented to us to warrant interference with the learned judge’s excise of discretion,” Justice Ouko ruled. “I adopt those views as they mirror what happened in the appeal before us, where the judge arrived at her determination based on the law and evidence before her. If in the appellant’s opinion the conclusions were erroneous, it could only appeal,” he added.

The problems started when Kenya migrated from analog to digital broadcasting. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) set up Signet to manage signal distribution that was set up by KBC.

This, later on, spurred a dispute where Wananchi Group that owns Zuku told Justice Ngugi that CAK gave preferential access to Multichoice to sell locked set-top boxes that restricted content to the GoTV platform. This, according to Wananchi Group, was a breach of the State agencies’ statutory duty since they were giving MultiChoice commercial advantage.