The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has waived the quarterly media subscription fees until October 2020 as a rebate in the face of the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on media earnings. Media enterprises are required to pay quarterly subscription fees to fulfill compliance requirements.
The decision to implement the waiver was reached during a Special Council Meeting on Friday 5th June, 2020 where the governing body of the MCK reviewed the regulator’s COVID-19 mitigation measures for the media sector and approved the waiver affecting the last quarter of the financial year 2019/20 (April – June 2020) and the first quarter of the financial year 2020/21 (July – September 2020).
Big Media, Bigger Trouble
Since the proclamation of COVID-19 as a pandemic disease and the issuance of guidelines under the Public Health Act, by the Ministry of Health, the media sector has been adversely affected by the slowdown in economic activity and the resultant shrinking and, in some cases, drying up of advertising revenues.
All big media houses led by Nation Media Group and Standard Group, both listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, have announced staff pay cuts of between 5 and 50% to cushion themselves against the Covid-19 induced slowdown.
Mediamax Networks, which runs K24 Tv and People Daily newspaper has, besides making the deepest cut of up to 50% issued redundancy notice to its employees. Standard has already reported a loss for the year ending 2019, which gives a grim prognosis for 2020, while NMG has issued a profit warning with a big dip in earnings expected.
Media Council Chief Executive Officer David Omwoyo says the waiver of the subscription fees amounts to Ksh10 million in value for the period and is intended to help lighten the financial burden on media houses. For media houses, it’s a double blow from advertising and reduced circulation of newspapers caused by restricted movements in a number of high-risk regions such as Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kwale.
Historic media grant
The MCK has in the last three months implemented a raft of measures to cushion the sector, including the provision of health reporting grants to journalists, direct support to media associations and support groups as well as the provision of the historic Ksh100 million grant to community media.
“We continue to monitor this evolving situation with a view to providing assistance where possible and engendering a conducive operating environment for media enterprises across the country,” Mr Omwoyo said.