The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986


Monday June 27, 2016

The government has moved to split State broadcaster Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) into two companies —public and commercial — in line with a draft ICT policy. The National ICT policy is undergoing public review.

KBC managing director Waithaka Waihenya said the move is aimed at making the corporation more competitive while at the same time protecting its mandate of informing the public without the headache of pursuing profit.

“The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) will be restructured to ensure its relevance and viability as the public broadcaster,” says the ICT policy.

“KBC may also establish a subsidiary to provide commercial broadcasting services subject to fulfilment of licensing and regulatory requirements.”

Mr Waihenya said although KBC is a commercial entity that is supposed to be making profits, the current law has limited this opportunity through a requirement that the corporation concentrate on role as a public broadcaster.

This has seen it offer services even in areas that are considered commercially unviable, making it difficult to compete with its peers in terms of talent since it cannot match salary offers.

The proposed policy will, however, provide the corporation with a legal muscle to create a full-fledged commercial arm.

If adopted, the proposal will see KBC’s FM stations such as Coro, Pwani and Metro FM transferred to the commercial unit.

The English Service and Radio Taifa will remain under the public service.

“Currently although some of our vernacular stations may be classified as commercial, this is not well grounded in the law,” Mr Waihenya told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.

Information secretary Joseph Mucheru said the draft policies will be reviewed by the public before they are forwarded to the Attorney-General and then to the National Assembly.

Mr Waihenya said the commercial wing recommendation is in line with findings of a study by consultancy firm Deloitte hired  in 2014 to come up with a revamp formula of the public broadcaster.

“This is not a new thing, even BBC has both public and commercial wings,” Mr Waihenya said.

“The revenue generated from the commercial wing will help the corporation manage its day to day bills such as paying employees  while any contribution from the government will go towards expanding  our reach and modernising our  technology.”

In the draft policy, private broadcast licences will not be granted to any political party or affiliate of a political party.

And to avoid hoarding of the scarce frequency resources, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) will develop guidelines with appropriate regulatory safeguards to ensure broadcast licensees start operations within time frames stipulated in their licences.

The proposed policy further recommends that the government support KBC to sustain its universal service obligations.

Private or commercial broadcasters may start offering public broadcasting services if a proposal to have the government designate this role to other entities is adopted.

This role has so far been exclusive to KBC. The Business Daily could not establish how this will work, whether it will be done at a fee or not.

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