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Broadcasters count losses as TVs remain off air

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Three independent media house in the country are counting losses as their free to air television channels are still off, about 24 hours since they were shut down for defying a government decree not to  livestream the NASA meeting at Uhuru Park where its leader Raila Odinga was sworn in as the “People’s President.”

Citizen TV, NTV and KTN News have not resumed operations and there is no indication as to when they will be back on air, meaning they will continue losing revenue accruing from advertising and other streams by the minute.

At a meeting at State House, Nairobi, last Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta is reported to have warned that the government will revoke the licences of TV and radio stations that would provide live broadcasting of the NASA “swearing in”.

For the media, the clampdown will prove a costly affair coming at a time they are doing badly money-wise thanks to losses incurred as a result of prolonged electioneering last year that affected both ad and print sales, a change in government policy that centralised advertising under one entity, which was followed by a launch of its own newspaper that carries public sector ads but is distributed as an insert in the independent media as a weekly insert at a fee and competition from online news platforms.

READ: Tension at Citizen TV as Royal Media sacks top radio editors

As a result media houses have in recent years embarked on restructuring programmes that has seen the Nation Media Group, the Standard Group, Royal Media Services and the Mediamax Network retrench hundreds of employees to stay afloat.

Royal Media is the latest to implement restructuring, which commenced on Friday last week, two weeks after Nation Media undertook a similar exercise.

There are fears that even if the TV stations are allowed to resume free to air broadcasts, the damage would have exacerbated an already dire situation financially, potentially making them vulnerable to manipulation by the government and major corporate advertisers to the detriment of freedom of the press in Kenya.

The last time  independent TV stations went off air, it was in protest against the government push for digital migration in 2014 within timelines they were opposed to.

Incidentally, Dr Matiang’i was in charge at the Information and Communications Technology ministry and he stayed put and the matter went all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the media owners lost the war.

It is likely that the current crackdown by the Communications Authority will end up in court. Human rights activists are already urging media houses to file for compensation.

It is the first time in Kenya’s history that a crackdown on the media has been on such a scale as the current one and even die-hard Jubilee supporters are protesting the move, terming unnecessary and costly as it is also affecting them.

ALSO SEE: Govt ordered to pay Itumbi Sh5m damages

Only national broadcaster, KBC, K24, which is associated with the Kenyatta family, and a few vernacular language TV stations are operating free to air channels. Citizen TV has resorted to its Viusasa pay per view platform to air free programmes while KTN News, a 24-hour news channel, is operating a You Tube channel.

KTN Home is, however, back on air. The Standard Group, which operates both KTN Home and KTN News, boasts  the Moi family as the majority shareholder.

The government is not taking Raila’s “swearing in” as a non-consequential affair. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on Tuesday proscribed the National Resistance Movement (NRM) wing of NASA as an organised criminal group paving the way for a possible crackdown on its leaders. The formation of NRM was announced last October by NASA to lead a defiance campaign against the Jubilee administration.

READ ALSO: MEDIA WARS – editors battle media owners for freedom

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BT Reporter
BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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