High Court okays Kwese TV, station could be on air today

ECONET Media Limited (Mauritius) yesterday got the green light to distribute its Kwese TV satellite content to Zimbabwean viewers pending finalisation of a licence dispute pitting Dr Dish (Pvt) Ltd and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.

High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe suspended an earlier decision by BAZ to terminate Dr Dish’s content distribution licence and allowed the media firm to enjoy full rights and benefits of its licence.

The judgment will be a relief to Zimbabweans who were struggling to raise US dollars to pay monthly subscriptions to Multichoice Zimbabwe which was enjoying monopoly with its DSTV content.

Multichoice has been rejecting payments through bank card swipe, transfer, EcoCash and bond notes and coins, demanding US dollars It has since been taken to court to allow Zimbabweans to pay their subscription fees in bond notes, coins or swipe.

With the liquidity crunch in Zimbabwe, few people could afford to pay the subscriptions with others opting to subscribe from outside the country. Dr Dish partnered Econet Media Mauritius with a view to distribute Kwese TV content.

Before the launch of the product, BAZ wrote a letter purporting to cancel Dr Dish’s licence on the basis that it had not formally applied for an amendment of its licence to provide Kwese TV channels.

The matter spilled into the High Court with Dr Dish challenging the cancellation of its licence.

Justice Hungwe’s order reads:

“Pending final determination of this matter, it is ordered that:

1. The operation of the purported termination of Applicant’s Content Distribution Service Licence Number CD 0004 through a letter dated August 22, 2017 signed by Second Respondent (BAZ chieF executive officer) on first respondent’s (BAZ) letterhead, be and is hereby suspended.

2. Applicant shall be entitled to enjoy the full rights and benefits of its licence as if the letter of 22 August does not exist.

3. Applicant shall be entitled to distribute the Econet Media Limited Mauritius content based on the technical standards notified by the applicant to the first respondent and accepted by First Respondent on 21 October, 2016”.

The court found that Dr Dish had established a prima facie right to the relief sought. “The whole conduct of the Authority (BAZ) in this saga leaves no doubt in one’s mind that this matter was not properly handled.

“In my view, the applicant has demonstrated that it has a prima facie right such as is required in an application of this nature,” the judge ruled. Justice Hungwe said Econet had invested in the deal and cancellation of the licence would cause irreparable harm to its business.

“The applicant publicly announced that it was rolling out its broadcast service through the provision of Kwese TV content. Clearly, applicant invested heavily in both human and capital resources for which a huge loss will naturally follow should the board refuse to reverse second respondent’s letter of cancellation.

“I am satisfied that indeed such irreparable harm would visit the applicant,” reads the judgment. Dr Dish was in 2007 issued with a licence to specifically provide My TV channels to Zimbabwean viewers, but it struggled to pay the required fees for years.

It also reached a point of failing to provide the service until BAZ issued a notice of intention to cancel the licence in October last year. Last month, Dr Dish partnered Econet Media Limited (Mauritius) and paid all the outstanding fees before notifying BAZ of its intention to add the Kwese TV channels to its list of content.

BAZ received the money, but went on to terminate the licence through a letter dated August 22 this year. – Herald

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