The rules governing broadcast content came into effect with little change in programming for both TV and radio stations. But the government is warning free-to-air television and radio stations against flouting the broadcasting code, saying the lifelines are fewer.
According to the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), first time offenders may get away with cautioned. That’s about how lenient it will get as repeat offenders will face hefty penalties, including revocation of licences.
CA Director General Francis Wangusi said while most radio stations – which largely ride on music and talk shows for content – have met the 40 per cent local content rule, only national broadcaster KBC with 42 per cent local content is safe among the 64 licensed TV houses.
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TV stations, most of which are struggling due to thin advertising revenues, have blamed overreliance on foreign programmes on costly production costs for local content. Ten of the 64 TV stations have jointly applied for a self-regulating code under the Media Owners Association.
The code was published in April 2015 and gazetted in December and the new regulations took effect on July 1 after the lapse of a six-month grace period. “Sometimes, we will be giving warnings and where we find that the broadcaster is consistently contravening, that’s when we will levy penalties,” Mr Wangusi said.
Broadcasters are staring at fines of Ksh500,000 and 0.2 per cent of their gross annual turnover for not observing the code which, among others, requires at least 40 per cent local content in programming and restricting airing of adult-rated content outside the 5am and 10pm timeframe. Some observers say the fines are not high enough to compel media houses to comply totally.
Advertisements should also not eat up more than 10 minutes during a 30-minute newscast – a rule unsuccessfully opposed by broadcasters who argued they generate most of their revenues during this time, and that news-gathering was their most expensive programming. News programmes do not, however, constitute local content under the code.
“Most of the programmes being purchased from outside are cheaper because they have been watched several times and the intellectual property rights for some of those products may have expired,” Mr Wangusi said. “We are discouraging that because it is not going to help us to promote the film production industry in Kenya.”
The authority is in talks with the Kenya Film Commission on a possible incentive package for production houses. “It might be a little bit expensive to begin with,” the CA chief said.