The financial crisis facing Royal Media Services Video-on-demand subsidiary Viusasa could be bigger than previously imagined.
It has emerged that artists have not been paid for seven months while script translators have been fired. It is also understood that a number of editors previously attached to Viusasa’s dubbing section have been redeployed to other departments at Royal Media Services, leaving that department as good as dead.
Those who translated scripts were asked to return their headphones and clear with the company yet their contracts were to run to December.
The artists are said to be planning a boycott and demonstration against Royal Media to demand their dues. They too the first step today after holding a meeting today at a joint on Aga Khan walk in the city centre. These are the actors who provide voices for the dubbed (translated) versions of the shows on the app.
The multi-million Viusasa subsidiary is managed by Content Aggregation Limited (CAL) based in Westlands, Nairobi, headed by former Ipsos Managing Director George Waititu who paints a rosy picture when things are actually moving from bad to worse. Viusasa is a mobile application that gives subscribers access to video, music and live TV channels at a fee, starting from Ksh20 daily.
Word has it that Viusasa operational budgets were too high and RMS vice-chair person, Mrs Purity Gathoni Macharia, declined to approve them. According to an artist who spoke to Business Today, they had been promised to be paid on Tuesday this week but that never happened and “our supervisors are now not picking calls.”
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Viusasa artists are engaged through verbal agreements and only sign release forms allowing the station to use their voices and or images for a fee.
The dubbing department was under Radio Production Manager Vincent Kimani, who has since been reassigned other duties and a lady called Perpetua Nyangor to replace him.
Initially, Mr Kimani is said to have drawn up a ‘ludicrous budget’ and when Mrs Macharia refused to pay they are said to have deducted the actors’ cash from what they had signed up for. “It was a huge mess,” said one of the artists, who requested not to be named to preserve his working relationship with Viusasa. “Money was stolen through those budgets. Gathoni may have not known what hit her.”
Even with all these troubles, Mr Waititu feels Viusasa is doing well “getting bigger” by the day. “People can say whatever they want but as you can see we are doing fine,” he told a local website while responding to a story by business today indicating all was not well in the Viusasa house. “As a matter of fact, we are planning to revamp the project.”
Turns out, the revamp is euphemism for overhaul, as that is what RMS is planning for Viusasa as subscriptions have plummeted while revenues are shrinking by the day. Insiders say the app has just about 400,000 active subscribers and falling, down from 1.8 million who signed up in the early months of its launch.
Early this month, Viusasa news editor Sam Gakunyi resigned to join KTN as assignments editor.