Information and Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has put top managers at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation on notice, saying he is not pleased with the manner the state broadcaster is being managed.
According to sources privy to deliberations at a meeting the CS held with senior editorial and other section managers, he took issue with how the media house utilises its finances as well as the conduct of general operations.
One of the key questions that the CS raised and did not get adequate response was failure to expand coverage of the Signet signal across the country. According to insiders, KBC was allocated funds to put up 10 masts across the country in the last financial year but it only established six.
Signet is a KBC subsidiary specifically set up to broadcast and distribute DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) signals on DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting — Second Generation Terrestrial). Launched in 2009 by former President Mwai Kibaki it has on board 39 channels.
KBC owns 99% shares in Signet while the National Treasury has 1%. In 2015, the Government sought to transfer the entire shareholding to the National Treasury but KBC management led by Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya resisted, saying it would be a blow to the broadcaster.
Waihenya told the National Assembly Committee on Energy and Communication that KBC earns Ksh 14 million monthly from co-sharing sites with other media houses. At the time, Signet had 17 sites.
Mucheru, who met the managers at Broadcasting House from 8am to 10am Thursday, indicated he may be forced to effect changes at the public broadcaster if things do not change.
Already, the grapevine has it that Mucheru is shopping for a new MD to take over from Waihenya who left in October last year when his term ended. Corporation Secretary Paul Jilani is currently the acting MD. Insiders say Editor-in-Chief Samuel Maina was seen as a front runner for the job but his chances appear to have ebbed away.
At another meeting last week, Mucheru also tongue lashed the KBC managers for failing to take advantage of the shutdown of four TV stations – KTN News, NTV, Citizen TV and Inooro TV – to generate revenue.
“The CS wondered how they could not attract even a single advertiser for the entire week that the stations remained off air, saying it was an indication they are just lazy,” said our source.
He was surprised that the broadcaster could not “score a single goal yet half the field, including the goal post was empty.”
Two years ago, Mucheru had tasked a seven-member task force with studying, examining and reviewing strategies, structures, processes and systems within KBC and advise on their appropriateness.
However, nothing has been heard about its recommendations.
KBC has a history of financial troubles resulting from a massive debt, which stood at Ksh 45 billion at 30th, June 2015 with Auditor General Edward Ouko declaring it technically insolvent. However, mismanagement is also said to have sunk the public broadcaster deeper into negative territory.
At one point, there was a proposal to split the broadcaster into two entities, one catering for its commercial interests and the other its role as a public broadcaster. This was meant to make it more competitive and ensure its relevance.
According to the plan, KBC’s FM radio stations such as Coro, Pwani and Metro FM were to be transferred to the commercial unit with only KBC English Service and KBC Radio Taifa remaining as public service stations.
The CS is expected to return to Broadcasting House on Friday next week and sources indicate heads could roll.