BookPDF Available

State and Future of Public Broadcasting in Kenya


Abstract and Figures

The report is the result of research that started in 2008 with the aim of collecting, collating and writing up information about regulation, ownership, access, performance as well as prospects for public broadcasting reform in Africa. The Kenya report is part of an eleven-country survey of African broadcast media.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP)
Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA)
Open Society Media Program (OSMP)
Open Society Foundations 2011
This publication is available as a pdf on the Open Society Foundations website or the AfriMAP website under
a Creative Commons licence that allows copying and distributing the publication, only in its entirety, as long
as it is attributed to the Open Society Foundations and used for noncommercial educational or public policy
purposes. Photographs may not be used separately from the publication.
Written by: Grace Githaiga (researcher), Jeanette Minnie and Hendrik Bussiek (editors)
Published by:
Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa
ISBN: 978-1-920489-20-5
For more information contact:
PO Box 678
Wits, 2050
South Africa
PO box 2193
Nairobi, 00202
Design and lay-out by COMPRESS.dsl |
Acronyms v
Foreword vii
Introduction ix
1 Country Facts 1
1 Historical background 1
2 Government and political structures 3
3 Basic socio-economic data 5
4 Main challenges 6
5 Media and communication landscape 7
6 Brief history of broadcasting 11
2 Media Legislation and Regulation 13
1 International, continental and regional standards 13
2 The Constitution of Kenya 18
3 General media laws and regulations 21
4 Other laws with an impact on media and freedom of expression 27
5 Conclusions and recommendations 29
3 The Broadcasting Landscape 32
1 The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation 32
2 Commercial broadcasters 33
3 Community and other forms of broadcasting 38
4 Technical standard and accessibility of services 41
5 Concentration of media ownership 42
6 Conclusions and recommendations 44
4 Digitalisation and its Impact 46
1 Preparedness for switch-over within government and the industry 47
2 Preparedness for switch-over on the part of consumers 48
3 Increased competition 50
4 Conclusions and recommendations 51
5 Broadcasting Legislation and Regulation 53
1 The Communications Commission of Kenya 53
2 Licensing of broadcasters and enforcement of licence conditions 57
3 Complaints and conflict resolution 65
4 Conclusions and recommendations 65
6 The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation: Overview 69
1 Legislation 69
2 Profile of the KBC 72
3 Organisational structures and staff 75
4 Conclusions and recommendations 78
7 Funding of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation 81
1 Main sources of funding 81
2 Spending 84
3 Conclusions and recommendations 84
8 Programming 87
1 Programme policies and guidelines 87
2 Programme schedules 91
3 News and current affairs 97
4 Comparison of state and commercial broadcasters 101
5 Feedback and complaints procedures 105
6 Conclusions and recommendations 105
9 Broadcasting Reform Eorts 108
1 Perceptions of the KBC 108
2 Current reform efforts 111
3 Conclusions and recommendations 112
10 Overall Conclusions and Recommendations 114
ACHPR African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
AKFED Aga Khan Foundation for Economic Development
AMB African Media Barometer
AU African Union
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
CCK Communications Commission of Kenya
CNN Cable News Network
DP Democratic Party of Kenya
DSTV Digital Satellite Television
EAC East African Community
EATV East African Television
ECK Electoral Commission of Kenya
EU European Union
FKE Federation of Kenya Employers
FORD Forum for the Restoration of Democracy
GDP gross domestic product
ICCK Independent Communications Commission of Kenya
ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
IPPG Inter Parties Parliamentary Group
ITU International Telecommunications Union
KANU Kenyan African National Union
KBC Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
KES Kenya Shilling
KICT Kenya Information Communication Technology
KNA Kenya News Agency
KTN Kenya Television Network
MCK Media Council of Kenya
MOA Media Owners Association
NARC National Rainbow Coalition
NMG Nation Media Group
NOFBI National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure
NTV Nation TV
OAU Organisation of African Unity
ODM Orange Democratic Movement
PNU Party of National Unity
RMS Royal Media Services
SLG Standard Group Limited
STBs set-top boxes
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
VoK Voice of Kenya
The report is the result of research that started in 2008 with the aim of collecting,
collating and writing up information about regulation, ownership, access, performance
as well as prospects for public broadcasting reform in Africa. The Kenya report is
part of an eleven-country survey of African broadcast media. The main reason for
conducting the research is to contribute to Africa’s democratic consolidation.
Many African countries have made significant gains in building democratic
systems of governance that are based on popular control of decision-making and in
which citizens are treated as equals. Availability and access to information by a greater
number of citizens is a critical part of a functioning democracy and a country’s
development. The role of a public broadcaster as a vehicle through which objective
information and diverse perspectives are transmitted into the public domain cannot
be overstated.
A number of countries are currently undertaking public broadcasting reforms that
aim to improve service delivery and accountability to citizens. Such reforms draw
from evolving African and global standards regarding media and broadcast media
in particular. The survey instrument that was developed in consultation with media
experts from Africa and other parts of the world is largely based on agreements,
conventions, charters and declarations regarding media that have been developed at
regional and continental levels in Africa.
The survey of broadcast media in Africa was initiated by two projects of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project
(AfriMAP) and the Open Society Media Program, working with the African members
of the Soros foundation network – in East Africa, the Open Society Initiative for East
Africa (OSIEA). The research was carried out by Grace Githaiga, a media researcher
with special interest in broadcasting and ICT, based in Nairobi/Kenya. The report
was co-edited by Jeanette Minnie, an international freedom of expression and media
consultant, and Hendrik Bussiek, a media consultant with extensive broadcasting
experience in Africa and globally, who is the editor-in-chief of the project.
It is our hope that the research will clear some of the misconceptions about public
broadcasters. In its simplest definition a ‘public broadcasting service’ is a broadcaster
that serves the public as a whole and is accountable to the public as a whole. Yet in
most instances what is referred to as a public broadcaster is in fact a state broadcaster.
This research aims to help the process of aiding the transformation of Africa’s public
broadcasters into media worthy of the name.
Ozias Tungwarara
Director, AfriMAP
The survey on public broadcasting in Africa starts from the premise that development
and democracy cannot thrive without open and free public space where all issues
concerning people’s lives can be aired and debated and which gives them room and
opportunity to participate in decision-making. Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen
describes democracy as ‘governance by dialogue’ and broadcasters are ideally placed
to facilitate this dialogue by providing the space for it – if their services are accessible,
independent, credible and open to the full spectrum of diverse views.
Following from this premise, the key objective of the survey is to assess whether
and to what extent the various forms of broadcasting on our continent can and do
create such a free public space, with special attention given to those services which call
themselves ‘public’. A total of eleven country reports look closely at the current status
of broadcasting in Benin, Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria,
South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
While this survey may be unprecedented in its scope and depth, it does feed into
ongoing discussions among broadcasters, civil society and politicians in Africa on the
nature and mandate of genuine public broadcasting. Reform eorts are under way
in a number of countries. And at least on paper there is already broad consensus on
the need to open up the airwaves to commercial and community broadcasters and
for state broadcasters to be transformed into truly public broadcasting services. The
Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African
Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2002, for example, says
‘a State monopoly over broadcasting is not compatible with the right to freedom of
expression’ and demands that ‘state and government controlled broadcasters should be
transformed into public service broadcasters accountable to the public’. This document
and other regional policy declarations serve as major benchmarks for this survey.
In particular, these African documents inform the vision and mandate of public
broadcasting as understood in this study.1 This vision can be summarised as follows:
• to serve the overall public interest and be accountable to all strata of society as
represented by an independent board;
• to ensure full respect for freedom of expression, promote the free flow of
information and ideas, assist people to make informed decisions and facilitate
and strengthen democracy.
The public broadcasters’ mandate is
• to provide access to a wide range of information and ideas from the various
sectors of society;
• to report on news and current aairs in a way which is not influenced by
political, commercial or other special interests and therefore comprehensive,
fair and balanced (editorial independence);
• to contribute to economic, social and cultural development in Africa by
providing a credible forum for democratic debate on how to meet common
• to hold those in power in every sector of society accountable;
• to empower and inspire citizens, especially the poor and marginalised, in
their quest to improve the quality of their lives;
• to provide credible and varied programming for all interests, those of the
general public as well as minority audiences, irrespective of religious beliefs,
political persuasion, culture, race and gender;
• to reflect, as comprehensively as possible, the range of opinions on matters of
public interest and of social, political, philosophical, religious, scientific and
artistic trends;
• to promote the principles of free speech and expression as well as of free
access to communication by enabling all citizens, regardless of their social
status, to communicate freely on the airwaves;
• to promote and develop local content, for example through adherence to
minimum quotas;
• to provide universal access to their services, with their signal seeking to reach
all corners of the country.
1 Apart f rom the Af rican Commission’s Declarat ion of Principles on Freedom of Expression, these are the A frican
Char ter on Broadcasting 2 001 as wel l as the 1995 policy do cument ‘On The Move’ a nd 2007 draft policy paper ‘Now
is the Time’ by the Southern Af rican Broadcast ing Association, in whic h state/public broadcasters in sout hern Africa
commit the mselves to t he aim of public broadcasting.
Other broadcasting services can – in one way or the other – also fulfill aspects of
this mandate, and the survey, therefore, looks at them as well in order to assess their
contribution to the creation of a public space.
The facts, figures and informed assessments presented in the survey will, it is
hoped, provide a nuanced picture of where broadcasting in Africa at present stands
between ‘His Master’s Voice’ of old and the envisaged public broadcasting service of
the future. This information should provide a sound basis for advocacy work, both
among decision-makers and civil society as a whole.
The report starts out with a comprehensive audit of existing media laws and other
legislation with an impact on freedom of expression and a critical in-depth assessment
of the legal and regulatory framework in which broadcasting presently operates. This
is followed by a detailed study of the state broadcaster – its organisation, its finances,
its policies, the content it oers.
In April 2011 a draft report was publicly presented at a round table meeting in
Kenya’s capital Nairobi, attended by participants from public and private broadcasting
stations, media associations and other civil society organisations. Participants
discussed the findings, corrected assumptions and errors, debated and endorsed
conclusions and recommendations and made a number of additions which were
incorporated into the final version.
The researcher and editors would like to express their gratitude to all those who
contributed by sharing their information and insights and providing valuable feedback
and constructive criticism.
Hendrik Bussiek
Country Facts
1 Historical background
Kenya formally became an independent republic on 12 December 1963, with the end
of British colonial rule. The first president was Jomo Kenyatta and the ruling party,
the Kenyan African National Union (KANU), dominated the politics of the country
up to 2002.
KANU managed to stay in power through a number of strategies. Under Kenyatta
opposition parties were either absorbed or banned and the voices of political and civil
opposition eectively silenced through the detention and imprisonment of dissidents.
After Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi took over as president.
Four years later parliament declared Kenya a one-party state. Following a period of
protests and repression as well as pressure from the international community, Moi
announced in December 1991 that the country was ready for a multi-party system
and KANU changed the constitution accordingly. Opposition groups formed an
alliance, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), with veteran politician
Oginga Odinga as chairman. Mwai Kibaki, a former vice-president, established the
Democratic Party of Kenya (DP).
However, the opposition soon became fragmented and KANU won the December
1992 general and presidential elections. The party had the necessary resources and
the infrastructure and was thus able to repeat its success in the subsequent election in
1997, though with a considerably reduced majority in Parliament.
Before the 2002 general elections t he opposition managed to forge an unprecedented
alliance. The major stumbling block among the various opposition parties such as
FORD-Kenya, FORD-People, the Democratic Party, Safina, the Social Democratic
Party and others had been that they could never agree to field one presidential candidate
to oppose the incumbent Daniel Arap Moi. Now these parties formed the National
Rainbow Coalition (NARC), ‘a coalition of genuine reformers and opportunists’,2 as
Andrew Harding, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) correspondent covering
the elections, put it.
NARC won 125 out of the possible 210 parliamentary seats, and KANU came a distant
second with 64 seats. Together with another seven out of the additional 12 seats decided
by the system of proportional representation, NARC achieved a clear majority that
entitled it to form the government. Presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki himself won a
comfortable 62.2 per cent of the vote (3646 713) compared to Uhuru Kenyatta’s (the son
of Jomo Kenyatta) 31.3 per cent (1834 468).3 The entire election was given a clean bill of
health by international observers and the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).
A process of reviewing the Kenyan constitution had started before the elections and
one of the recommendations was that a future president would have his/her powers
reduced to largely ceremonial responsibilities to avoid the danger of again installing
all powerful autocrats. Instead a prime minister would run the actual aairs of
government, overseen by Parliament. The opposition parties in NARC had negotiated
their alliance with the spirit of the envisaged new constitution in mind. However,
this new constitution was not finalised or adopted during their term in oce and
the following elections in December 2007 were conducted under the unchanged
constitution, with NARC fragmented and new formations vying for the vote.
Raila Odinga (the son of Oginga Odinga) launched the Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM) and President Mwai Kibaki the Party of National Unity (PNU).
Both party leaders ran for the oce of president. At the end of January 2008 the ECK
declared Kibaki the winner of the presidential election with 47 per cent of the votes
against Odinga’s 44 per cent.4 Odinga disputed the results and independent exit polls
indicated that he had indeed achieved 46 per cent with Kibaki coming in at 40 per
cent.5 In the parliamentary elections Odinga’s ODM won 99 seats, leaving Kibaki’s
PNU with 43 seats far behind; the rest of the 210 elected seats are shared by smaller
The stalemate led to unprecedented post-election violence in which nearly 1 200
people were killed and more than 300 000 displaced. Significantly, some of the
violence happened along ethnic lines, with the Kikuyu – the community of which
Kibaki is a member – pitted against groups supportive of Odinga, primarily Luo and
2 Quoted from : Muhammad Baka ri, ‘Kenyan Elections 2002: the End of Machiavellian Politics?’ in Alter natives, Turk ish
Journa l of International Relations Vol. 1, Number 4, 2002.
3 Ibid.
5 International Republican In stitute (IRI) St rategic Public Relat ions and Research, ‘Kenya elec tion day p oll’, www.iri.
org, 27 Decemb er 2007.
It was left to regional and international mediation, including that of former United
Nations (UN) General Secretary Kofi Annan as chief mediator, to bring about a power-
sharing settlement and the formation of a government of national unity with Kibaki
as president and Odinga as prime minister.
2 Government and political structures
The Republic of Kenya is a multi-party democracy. The three arms of government are
the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
According to the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, which forms the
legal basis for the present government of national unity, the executive is headed by the
president who is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, the
prime minister who is the head of government, a vice-president and two deputy prime
This Act was supposed to cease to apply either upon dissolution of the current
Parliament or of the coalition, or once a new constitution is enacted, whichever came
earlier. The new constitution was promulgated on 27 August 2010 after a referendum,
but it provides for a transitional arrangement that keeps the National Assembly as well
as the president and prime minister in oce until the next elections in 2012.
Legislative power is vested in t he National Assembly which consists of 224 members.
Of these, 210 are elected members representing 210 geographical constituencies, and
12 members are nominated by political parties on a proportional representation basis.
There are also two ex-ocio members: the attorney-general and the speaker, who is
elected by the Assembly. Parliament enacts legislation that governs the country. All
bills passed by the National Assembly are presented to the president for his assent and
have to be published in the Kenya Gazette before they become law.
The new constitution establishes 47 counties, each with its own government in
charge of agriculture, health services, public amenities, county trade development as
well as county planning and development, among others. In line with this new tier of
government, the new basic law provides for a two-chamber parliament with a National
Assembly and a Senate. The National Assembly enacts legislation, determines the
national expenditure and revenue, and reviews the conduct of the president and his/
her deputy and other state ocers. The Senate serves the interests of the counties by
debating and approving bills concerning the counties and determining the allocation
of national revenue among counties.
The new National Assembly will have 350 members: 290 elected in constituencies,
47 women elected in the counties, 12 members nominated on a proportional basis, and
the speaker as ex ocio member. The Senate will have 68 members: 47 directly elected
in the counties, 16 women nominated by political parties according to their share
of seats in the Senate, two members each representing the youth and persons with
disabilities respectively (appointed according to the proportional strength of political
parties), and the speaker as ex ocio member.
The county assemblies are made up of members elected from dierent wards in
the counties.
The new basic law provides for an Independent Electoral and Boundaries
Commission which sets the boundaries of constituencies and conducts or supervises
referenda and elections to any elective body or oce established by the constitution.
The Commission is elected by the National Assembly and appointed by the president.
The new basic law brings back a purely presidential system, with the president
being both head of state and head of government, directly elected by registered voters.
S/he will have the power to appoint (with parliamentary approval) ministers (called
‘cabinet secretaries’) and other key oce bearers such as the attorney-general (who is
also a member of the cabinet).
The judiciary presently consists of magistrates’ courts, the High Court – which
is the superior court of record and has unlimited original jurisdiction in civil and
criminal matters – and a Court of Appeal. All judges are appointed by the president.
In future, there will be the Supreme Court hearing appeals from the other courts at
the apex of the judicial system, followed by the Court of Appeal to deal with appeals
from the High Court, the High Court, as well as a labour and an environment/land
court. All judges will be appointed by the president on the recommendation of a
Judicial Service Commission (which is mainly elected by judges themselves), with the
appointment of the chief justice and his/her deputy to be approved by the National
Among the lower courts are the martial and kadhis’ (sharia) courts with the
latter applying Islamic law to Muslim citizens in matters regarding personal status,
marriage, divorce or inheritance.
It remains to be seen how the new structure of governance under the new
constitution will play out in practice, in particular with regard to the re-introduction of
a presidential system with a powerful head of both state and government at the helm.
Much will depend on the strength of political parties and an active civil society.
There are many organisations registered as political parties in the country. Muthoni
Wanyeki, the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, points out
that these parties lack membership structures, policy-based platforms and governing
codes of conduct:
Some of them mobilise on the basis of bribery and ethnic sentiments. On closer
scrutiny of the stronger parties, one finds that they are actually a few feudal families
who circulate among themselves and it is very difficult for ordinary Kenyans to break
in without patronage. These major parties are the main culprits as the leaders have
in instances made decisions on party nominees for various electoral positions.6
Similar sentiments are echoed by Atieno Ndomo, a political analyst, who says that ‘the
electorate has very little say as was seen during the last election’s party nominations
where party favourites who were defeated during the nomination exercise were rigged
in by the party headquarters ocials. The Orange Democratic Party was such a
cu lpr it.’7
3 Basic socio-economic data
Kenya has a population of 39.7 million people.8 It is a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic
country which consists of over 42 diverse ethnic groups. These can be broadly divided
into three main ethno-linguistic groupings: Bantu, Nilotic and Cushites.9 In all, these
groups speak 70 dierent dialects, and they have their own territories, traditions and
history. Generally, the name of each language also denotes the culture of its native
speakers. Thus, Dholuo for example, refers not only to the language but also to the
specific culture of the Luo people. There are also other non-African groups such as
Kenyan Europeans, Kenyan Americans, Kenyans of Asian origin and Kenyan Arabs.
English and Kiswahili are the ocial languages, with Kiswahili being the national
language. The new constitution provides that the state shall ‘promote and protect the
diversity of language[s] of the people of Kenya’ and ‘promote Kenyan sign language,
Braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with
Kenya is a multi-religious state. Freedom of conscience and worship are enshrined
in the constitution. The overwhelming majority of Kenyans – more than 80 per cent
– belong to Christian churches (Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal), followed by
Muslims (11 per cent), and traditionalists or naturalists. Other faith communities are
Hindus, Buddhists and Bahais.11
The education sector has recorded increased enrolment following the introduction
6 Interview with Muthoni Wanyeki, Nairobi, 28 January 20 08.
7 Inter view w ith Atieno Ndomo, Nairobi, 29 Januar y 2008.
9 Report on Cultu re, Speci al Working D ocument for the Nation al Const itutional Confe rence, August 2003 .
10 T he Constitution of Kenya, 2010, article 7(b).
11 The Main Report of t he Const itution of K enya Rev iew Commission, September 2002 .
of free primary education (the first eight years of school) by the NARC government
in 2003. The average number of years of schooling now stands at 9.6.12 From January
2008, the government began oering a programme of free secondary education. The
adult literacy rate is 74 per cent.13
Kenya’s economy is market-based. The estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per
capita for 2008 stood at US$ 1 622.14 The key sectors of the economy are agriculture,
tourism, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, transport and communication,
wholesale and retail trade, building and construction, and financial intermediation.
Though the country was built on agriculture, the tourism industry has now developed
into an almost equally big player. Between 1 and 2 million foreign tourists visit the
country each year, bringing in between US$ 800 million and 1 billion annually.15
Kenya is the biggest exporter of tea in the world. With roughly US$ 1 billion in
revenues (in 2007), tea accounts for two-thirds of agricultural exports. Flowers have
been a major growth area over recent years. In 2007, Kenya exported 90 000 tons of
flowers for a total of US$ 700 million. Kenya also ranks number 17 on the international
list of biggest coee exporters.16
The economy has expanded by 5.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2010, due
mainly to the performance of the agriculture, manufacturing and financial sectors.17 A
report by the World Bank18 points out that information communication technology (ICT)
has been a main driver of Kenya’s economic growth over the last decade. Since 2000,
the sector has outperformed all other segments of the economy, boosting the country’s
average growth over the period from 2.8 per cent (excluding ICT) to 3.7 per cent.
4 Main challenges
4.1 Post-conflict management
Kenya is still suering from the consequences of the post-election violence of 2008
and little has been done to address the underlying causes. Not all people who were
displaced have been resettled. The polarisation along tribal lines needs to be eased
through promoting national cohesion and peace-building among the dierent ethnic
12 Human Development Indicators Kenya, UNDP,
14 Human Development Indicators, ibid.
15 http://www.kenya- economy.html.
16 Ibid.
17 Gross Domestic P roduct (Second Quar ter 2010), ministry of planning http://ww
18 Kenya Economic Update, December 2010, edit ion no. 3, World Ban k.
4.2 Implementation of the new constitution
The new constitution provides for a host of new institutions and governance structures
from counties to a Senate. These and other provisions must be put into practice
and made to work to take the country forward. Narrow party-political and personal
interests which presently threaten the reform process need to be overcome.
4.3 Agriculture
The agricultural sector is experiencing constant shifts in cropping patterns due
to price changes, lack of improved seeds during planting season, the high cost of
fertiliser and market ineciencies. Farmers lack access to inputs, financial services,
improved technology and ecient markets, and have overused the land for crop
production without rest.19 The weather has also not been favourable since 2007, with
dramatically less than expected rainfalls. As a consequence, food prices have reached
an all-time high.20
4.4 Poverty and unemployment
According to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human
Development Index, 50 per cent of Kenya’s population is categorised as ‘deprived’,
with nearly 20 per cent living below the poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day.21 The
unemployment rate is estimated to stand at 40 per cent, with young people being the
most aected.22 The resulting unhappiness about the low standard of living and lack
of perspective among large parts of the population fuel perceptions of real or imagined
rivalry, and thus, in turn, tend to reinforce animosities between the various groupings
– or be exploited for that purpose by political players. This vicious cycle needs to be
5 Media and communication landscape
Radio is the most accessible and aordable medium in Kenya. A survey to establish
radio and television ownership, conducted in February and March 2008, revealed
that at least 10.7 million Kenyan homes had access to either a radio or a television set.
19 http://internationa lyouthforc =com_content&v iew=article&id= 6&Itemid =5.
20 J. Shikwati , ‘Kenya Economy needs Tough Tax-Justice Sti mulus’, Afr ican Executive, 19–26, March 2008.
21 Human D evelopment Indicators, ibid.
Some 7.5 million homes had radios while 3.2 million owned television sets. Of the
homes with radios, 5.5 million were in rural areas and 1.9 million in towns. 1.8 million
television set owners lived in the rural areas and 1.4 million in the urban centres.23
The airwaves were liberalised in the early 1990s, with no broadcasting legislation
or regulatory system in place. The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is
mandated to manage the radio frequency spectrum, but the awarding of licences and
frequencies was carried out selectively, on an ad-hoc basis and with no clear pattern
or policy.24
The number of radio stations has grown significantly. As of December 2010, 98 FM
radio stations were on air (41 in the capital Nairobi alone). In addition there were 19 TV
channels (12 in Nairobi).25 (For more details see chapter 3.)
The print-media market has blossomed over the past few years. According to the
latest available figures, the circulation of English dailies increased by 10.2 per cent
from 2006 to 2007; the circulation of morning papers published in English and
Swahili grew by 10.2 and 13.7 per cent respectively. Weekly newspaper circulation also
increased by 40.8 per cent in 2007 (compared to a decline of 9.8 per cent recorded the
previous year). This increase, however, is to be attributed to 2007 being an election
year – periods which have always recorded spikes in readership.26
The market is dominated by two publishing houses, the Nation Media Group
(NMG) and the Standard Group.
Nation Media Group (NMG) owns the Daily Nation and Sunday Nation, The
Saturday Nation, Business Daily, the Kiswahili-language daily Taifa Leo and the weekly
The East African, two television stations (Nation TV and e-Africa) as well as two radio
stations, easyfm and QFM. The Group is listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and
the majority shareholder is the Aga Khan Foundation for Economic Development
(AKFED). The AKFED empire in East Africa is extensive and includes businesses in
a broad range of industries: banking, insurance, real estate, education, health, power
generation, airlines, and hotels.
The Standard Group Limited runs the daily The Standard with sister publications
on Saturdays and Sundays, the Kenya Television Network (KTN) and Radio Maisha.
It is owned by former president Daniel Arap Moi, his son Gideon and businessman
Joshua Kulei.
In addition to the newspapers published by the two conglomerates there are a
number of other titles, among them The People Daily, previously owned by politician
23 Audience Researc h Surve y Kenya, prepared by T he Steadma n Group, Kampa la/Ugand a, March 2009.
24 Africa n Media Ba rometer 2005, Windhoek 2005 .
25 Calc ulated from: List of assigned TV broadcast fre quencies _2010. htt p:// ng/broadcasting/
26 Ken ya’s Economic Survey 2008, National Bu reau of Stati stics.
Kenneth Matiba and acquired by TV Africa Holdings in 2009, and the daily Nairobi
Star, owned by businessman Patrick Quarcoo and William Pike of the Radio Africa
Table 1: Newspapers in Kenya
Title Publisher Frequency Circulation
Daily Nation NationMediaGroup daily 180000(PE)*
The Standard StandardGroupLtd daily 110000(PE)
The People TVAfricaHoldings daily 65000(PE)
Taifa leo NationMediaGroup daily 44000(PE)
Business Daily NationMediaGroup daily 15000(PE)
Nairobi Star RadioAfricaGroup daily 10000(PE)
The Financial Post P.G . K ariuk i weekly 60000(PE)
Coas t Week CoastWeekNewspapersLtd weekly 12000(PE)
The East African NationMediaGroup weekly 40000(PE)
Sunday Nation NationMediaGroup Sundays 280000(ABC)**
Sunday Standard StandardGroupLtd Sundays 150000(PE)
The People on Sunday TVAfricaHoldings Sundays 38000(PE)
Taifa Jumapili NationMediaGroup Sundays 000(ABC)
* Publishe r’s estima te ** Audi ted Bureau o f Circulat ion figure
Source: T he Stat us of the Me dia in Kenya. A repor t of the Media Council o f Kenya, 20 0485
The ministry of information runs the Kenya News Agency (KNA) which collects
information mainly from the rural areas. The ministry’s policy document states
that the rural press oces are ‘strategically located to ensure narrow-casting in the
coverage of development news to enhance information flow at the grassroots level’.
The main consumers of KNA news are the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
and Taifa L e o newspaper. In August 2009, the agency launched a weekly newspaper,
Kenya Today, carrying stories from rural areas.
The department is also setting up 24 information resource centres27 with the
assistance of the World Bank, which provided KES 80 million (US$ 986 000) for the
purpose.28 The Kenya Information Communication Technology (KICT) Board invested
KES 19 million (US$ 230 000) on state-of the art equipment and KES 60 million (US$
740 000) on local area network (LAN) and bandwidth connectivity.
27 ‘Excitin g Times Ahead for State News Agency’, Ke ny a To da y, 16–22 November 2009.
28, 20 January 2011.
With the expansion of the ICT infrastructure, most of the country is now being
serviced by high capacity transmission links. The government has put in place the
National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) meant to cover 80 per cent of
all districts in Kenya. It is also establishing ICT villages or digital villages in various
parts of the country. The centres are designed to help people access e-mail services,
make electronic payments for services, and access information. The services set to be
available to all citizens across the country also include access to public information,
remote online education, data gathering and registration, and licensing services.
The telecommunication sub-sector has continued to witness tremendous subscriber
growth supported by heavy investment. The performance has been further boosted by
the introduction of wireless technology for providing telephone services by Telkom
Kenya and Local Loop Operators.
The mobile phone network is growing notably. By the end of 2009, Kenya had
17.6 million active phone users,29 and the figure had grown to 21 million by mid 2010,
equivalent to one per adult,30 served by four licensed cellular operators. This growth
can be attributed to increased mobile coverage and availability of low denomination
calling cards. The four mobile providers are now turning their attention to data
In comparison, the fixed network is performing poorly. In 2008, Telkom Kenya
operated 280 000 landlines31 and the number of conventional payphones decreased
from 6 000 booths in 2006 to 5 210 in 2008. Though this reduction poses a threat to
Universal Access, increased mobile penetration and access to mobile community pay
phones have significantly increased access to voice services.32
Internet usage has grown from 200 000 users in 2000 (0.7 per cent of the
population) to 3.6 million in 2009 (8.6 per cent).33 Most Kenyans access the internet
through mobile phones and internet cafés as opposed to personal computers, either at
work or at home. The Digital Life Survey, a report recently launched by TNS Research
International,34 shows that 60 per cent of the people use their handsets, compared to 29
per cent using PCs at home, 33 per cent using PCs at work and 41 per cent accessing the
internet in cyber cafés. The leading activities on mobile internet are social networking
for 67 per cent of users and accessing e-mails (54 per cent). Fourteen per cent use it for
administrative work like filing tax returns and conducting internet banking.35
29 ‘Digital Technology is Transforming Kenya’, K en yaTo d ay, 7–13 December 20 09.
30 Kenya Ec onomic Update, December 2010, edit ion no. 3, World Ban k Publication.
31 IDG News Service, 27 May 2008.
32 _STATISTICS_REPORT_Q2_0809.pdf, p. 10.
33 Internet World stats htt p://
34 ‘Keny a tur ns to phones for Internet browsing’, Daily Nation, 3 D ecember 2010.
35 ‘Kenya’s mobile revolution bucks internationa l trend’, The Standard, 3 July 2010.
6 Brief history of broadcasting
Radio broadcasting in Kenya started in 1928 with a single channel targeting European
settlers and providing news mainly from their countries of origin and other parts of
the world.
In 1953, the first radio broadcast service (African Broadcasting Services) was created
for Africans, with programmes in Kiswahili, Dholuo, Kikuyu, Kinandi, Kiluhya,
Kikamba and Arabic.36 Regional radio stations were set up in Mombasa (Sauti ya
Mvita), Nyeri (Mount Kenya Station) and Kisumu (Lake Station).
In 1959 the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was established by the British colonial
administration with the objective of providing both radio and television broadcasting.
Television was found likely to be financially self-reliant if it was set up as a fully fledged
commercial outfit.37 A consortium of eight European and North American companies
was contracted by the colonial administration to establish the national television
broadcasting system. By the end of 1962, a transmission station and recording studio
had been set up, and television was ocially launched the following year.
When Kenya gained independence, the new government worried about the threat to
national sovereignty posed by the foreign ownership of the broadcasting infrastructure.
The Corporation was nationalised in June 1964, renamed Voice of Kenya (VoK) and
became a department under the ministry of information, broadcasting and tourism
(later renamed the ministry of nformation and broadcasting). Its new role, as the
government mouthpiece, was to provide information, education and entertainment.
In 1989, the VoK was renamed the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation through
the KBC Act, and accorded semi-autonomous status founded on the premise that it
would adopt a more commercially oriented stance. Although the Corporation unveiled
grandiose plans to expand news coverage and improve local programming content, it
was unable to chart an independent editorial position, and it is still widely seen as part
of the government propaganda machinery.
Gradual liberalisation of the airwaves started in late 1989 when the government
licensed the privately owned Kenya Television Network (KTN) to broadcast in Nairobi.
This was a joint initiative of Kenya’s ruling party, KANU, and London-based Maxwell
Communications, but the British media group withdrew after the death of its founder,
Robert Maxwell. Initially, KTN oered a mixture of re-transmissions of the American
Cable News Network (CNN) programming and light entertainment, but over time
evolved and now features local news bulletins and a few local productions. It was seen
36 Repor t of the Task Force on Migration f rom Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Kenya, September 2007, p. 6.
37 Nixon K areithi, Encyclopaedia of Radio. The Museu m of Broadcast Communications, 2003, htt p://www.museu
as a relief from the conformity previously on oer as it provided a dierent voice to the
government controlled Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). Currently the network
derives most of its revenue from advertising and TV production services.
In 1995, Capital FM became the first private radio station to be licensed by the
government. In 1996 the KBC established Metro FM, an entertainment station
operating on a commercial basis. The KBC also operates a national radio network on
AM Medium Wave.
From the mid-1990’s, the government fully liberalised the airwaves by issuing
broadcasting permits and licences to many private entities. It also authorised foreign
radio stations to operate in the country.
Liberalisation of the airwaves has resulted in the transformation of broadcasting,
with numerous stations now serving as platforms for information and public
discussion. They allow ordinary citizens to debate issues they find important,
including those of governance. Kenyans also have a wider choice of entertainment
and information.
Media Legislation and Regulation
1 International, continental and regional instruments
Kenya is party to a number of international, continental and regional legal instruments
relating to freedom of expression. Up to 2010, the country was not bound by these
legal instruments because it had a ‘dualistic legal system’ in which international
and domestic laws were required to be treated as separate legal orders, existing
independently of one another. Consequently, international principles were not
automatically binding on the state once it had ratified a treaty, and it was necessary
for the Kenyan government to domesticate international principles before they could
be invoked by citizens. However, this state of aairs is set to change with Kenya’s
new constitution adopted in August 2010. Article 2(5) says that ‘the general rules of
international law shall form part of the law of Kenya’ and article 2(6) states that ‘any
treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya under this
1.1 United Nations
The following instruments of the UN are relevant to freedom of expression:
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948)
The Universal Declaration is not a treaty that is ratified by states and thus legally
binding. However, scholars now regard it as either having itself become international
customary law or as a reflection of such law.38 In either case the inclusion of freedom
38 See, for exa mple, H. Hannum, ‘T he Statu s and Futu re of the Customary Internat ional Law of Human Rights:
The Stat us of the Universal De claration of Human Rights in Nationa l and Inter nationa l Law’, Geor gia Jour nal of
International and Comparative L aw, 287; H.J. Steiner, P. Alston and R. G oodma n, Inter national Human Rights in
Contex t: Law, Politics, Moral s: Texts and Materi als, Ox ford: Ox ford Universit y Press (third edition), 2007.
of expression in the Declaration implies that even states that have ratified none of the
relevant treaties are bound to respect freedom of expression as a human right.
Article 19 of the Declaration deals with the right to freedom of expression:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (enacted by the UN in 1966)
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a treaty that elaborates
on many of the rights outlined in the Declaration. Kenya is a party to the ICCPR.
The Covenant’s article 19 declares:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference;
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include
freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,
regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or
through any other media of his choice.
The Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press
(adopted by the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1991)
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Windhoek
Declaration, like other non-treaty documents, has moral authority by representing a
broad consensus of the international community on the detailed interpretation of the
Universal Declaration and other relevant standards as they relate to the press in Africa.
Article 9 of the Windhoek Declaration states:
(We) declare that
1) Consistent with article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and
free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a
nation, and for economic development.
2) By an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental,
political or economic control or from control of materials and infrastructure
essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and
3) By a pluralistic press, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and
the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines
and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the
1.2 African Union
Kenya is a member of the African Union (AU), whose Constitutive Act states that its
objectives include the promotion of ‘democratic principles and institutions, popular
participation and good governance’ (article 3[g]).
The most important human rights standard adopted by the AU or its predecessor,
the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), is:
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (adopted 27 June 1981)39
Article 9 on freedom of expression states:
• Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
• Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions
within the law.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is the body
established under the Charter to monitor and promote compliance with its terms.
Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa
In 2002, the African Commission adopted this Declaration to provide a detailed
interpretation for member states of the AU of the rights to freedom of expression
outlined in the African Charter. It states in its article I:
Freedom of expression and information, including the right to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of
art, or through any other form of communication, including across frontiers, is
a fundamental and inalienable human right and an indispensable component of
Everyone shall have an equal opportunity to exercise the right to freedom of
expression and to access information without discrimination.
39 Orga nisation of African Unit y, The Af ric an Char ter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted 27 June 1981, doc. CA B/
LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L .M. 58 (1982), entered into force 21 October 1986.
The Declaration goes on to say in article II:
No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of
expression; and
Any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a
legitimate interest and be necessary in a democratic society.
The Declaration details how such freedom of expression should be realised. Of
particular relevance to this study is the statement regarding public broadcasting
(article VI):
State and government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into public
service broadcasters, accountable to the public through the legislature rather than
the government, in accordance with the following principles:
• public broadcasters should be governed by a board which is protected against
interference, particularly of a political or economic nature;
• the editorial independence of public ser vice broadcasters should be guaranteed;
• public broadcasters should be adequately funded in a manner that protects
them from arbitrary interference with their budgets;
• public broadcasters should strive to ensure that their transmission system
covers the whole territory of the country; and
• the public service ambit of public broadcasters should be clearly defined and
include an obligation to ensure that the public receive adequate, politically
balanced information, particularly during election periods.
The document also states that freedom of expression ‘places an obligation on the
authorities to take positive measures to promote diversity (article II), that community
and private broadcasting should be encouraged (article V), and that broadcasting and
telecommunications regulatory authorities should be independent and ‘adequately
protected against interference, particularly of a political or economic nature’ (article
The Declaration furthermore provides for freedom of access to information and
states that ‘the right to information shall be guaranteed by law’ (article IV).
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007)
This Charter, adopted by African heads of state in 2007, highlights the importance of
access to information in a democracy. It states:
(State parties shall) promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster
citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and
accountability in the management of public affairs. (Article 2[10])
State parties shall ... ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties to state
controlled media during elections. (Article 17 [3])
For the time being, though, these remain noble goals. By September 2009, 29
countries had signed the Charter but only two had ratified it (Mauritania and Ethiopia),
and the treaty had thus not yet entered into force (which requires 15 ratifications).
1.3 Regional legal instruments
Treaty establishing the East African Community
Kenya is a member of the East African Community (EAC), whose founding treaty
provides that membership of the community is conditional, among other things, on:
Adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the
rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice. (Article 3[3][b])
Protocol on Management of Information and Communication
Kenya is a member of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region,
established in 2000 in response to UN Security Council resolutions calling for an
international conference on peace, security, democracy and development in the Great
Lakes region. The other members are Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic,
Congo (Republic of), Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan,
Tanzania and Zambia. In December 2006 heads of state and government of the
member states agreed a Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes
Region, with several protocols, including a Protocol on Management of Information
and Communication which enjoins member states to respect a wide range of principles
related to freedom of expression and the media. Among the objectives of the protocol
established by article 2 are for member states to:
1. Promote freedom of opinion and expression and the free exchange of ideas in
the Great Lakes Region;
2. Promote freedom of the media to receive and to impart information and ideas
in the Great Lakes Region;
3. Promote pluralistic media and the new information and communications
technologies, and expand access to information in the Great Lakes Region;
4. Foster the emergence of independent and responsible media in the Great Lakes
Region, namely by promoting media regulation and self-regulation bodies;
5. Promote professionalism in the media, namely through the establishment of
adequate financial assistance mechanisms and strategies for strengthening
Press professionals’ capacities.
While the principles outlined in these documents have been embraced to varying
degrees, at least theoretically, in Kenya’s media regulatory processes, there is usually
no explicit reference made to them.
1.4 Other documents
African Charter on Broadcasting (2001)
This Charter was adopted by media practitioners and international media and
other human rights organisations at a UNESCO conference to celebrate ten years
of the Windhoek Declaration. Although it has not been endorsed by any inter-state
structures, it represents a consensus of leading African and international experts on
freedom of expression and the media.
The Charter specifies, amongst other things, that there should be a three-tier
system of broadcasting (public, private and community), demands that ‘[a]ll state
and government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into public service
broadcasters’, and states that regulatory frameworks should be based on ‘respect for
freedom of expression, diversity and the free flow of information and ideas’.
2 The Constitution of Kenya
Article 33 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya guarantees freedom of expression as part
of a Bill of Rights:
(1) Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes—
(a) freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas;
(b) freedom of artistic creativity; and
(c) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
(2) The right to freedom of expression does not extend to—
(a) propaganda for war;
(b) incitement to violence;
(c) hate speech; or
(d) advocacy of hatred that
(i) constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to
cause harm; or
(ii) is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated in
Article 27(4).
(3) In the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, every person shall respect
the rights and reputation of others.
The prohibited grounds for discrimination listed in article 27(4) are ‘race, sex,
pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability,
religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth’.
It is interesting to note that the first two sub-articles of article 33 closely follow
section 16 of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa. The term ‘hate speech’, however,
is included in addition (without any definition), and ‘advocacy of hatred’ is defined
more broadly. While in South Africa such advocacy must constitute ‘incitement to
cause harm’ if it is not to be protected by the right to freedom of expression, the
Kenyan provisions also refer to ‘ethnic incitement’ and ‘vilification of others’. Sub-
article 3 on the ‘rights and reputations of others’ is another addition and the reference
to ‘reputation’ in particular could have negative consequences for freedom of the
media. What exactly such a reputation is will often be open to interpretation and in
the course of investigative reporting, for example, the reputation of persons is bound
to be impacted one way or the other.
Article 34(1) and (2) guarantee the freedom of the media:
(1) Freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media is
guaranteed, but does not extend to any expression specified in article 33(2).
(2) The State shall not—
(a) exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting,
the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of
information by any medium; or
(b) penalise any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast,
publication or dissemination.
Article 34(3) and (4) provide for an independent broadcasting regulator and a vision for
state-owned media including a public broadcaster:
(3) Broadcasting and other electronic media have freedom of establishment,
subject only to licensing procedures that—
(a) are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution;
(b) are independent of control by government, political interests or commercial
(4) All State-owned media shall—
(a) be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts
or other communications;
(b) be impartial; and
(c) afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and
dissenting opinions.
Article 34(5) provides for the establishment of a statutory media regulator:
Parliament shall enact legislation that provides for the establishment of a body,
which shall—
(a) be independent of control by government, political interests or commercial
(b) reflect the interests of all sections of the society; and
(c) set media standards and regulate and monitor compliance with those
The provisions in this article contradict clause IX of the African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights’ 2002 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression
in Africa, which states that ‘eective self-regulation is the best system for promoting
high standards in the media’ and will be further discussed later in this chapter.
Article 35 guarantees access to information:
(1) Every citizen has the right of access to—
(a) information held by the State; and
(b) information held by another person and required for the exercise or
protection of any right or fundamental freedom.
(2) Every person has the right to the correction or deletion of untrue or misleading
information that affects the person.
(3) The State shall publish and publicise any important information affecting the
Finally, article 24 deals with the limitations on these and all other rights listed in the
Bill of Rights:
A right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights shall not be limited except by
law, and then only to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an
open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking
into account all relevant factors, including—
(a) the nature of the right or fundamental freedom;
(b) the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
(c) the nature and extent of the limitation;
(d) the need to ensure that the enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms
by any individual does not prejudice the rights and fundamental freedoms
of others; and
(e) the relation between the limitation and its purpose and whether there are
less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.
The African Media Barometer (AMB),40 a self-assessment exercise conducted regularly
by representatives of media and civil society on the continent, notes in its 2009
Kenya report that the country is ‘emerging from years of autocracy’. While freedom of
expression was also guaranteed in the previous constitution, the report stated that for
journalists this freedom is still limited because of ‘ocial threats’. The report notes,
though, that the main threat to the media does not come ‘necessarily because of the
law, but because of ownership [of the media] and commercial interests’. On the other
hand, citizens themselves ‘have been vocal on call-in shows on FM radio stations,
… and have demonstrated a boldness that shows they are asserting their freedom of
expression without fear’.
3 General media laws and regulations
There is a range of media laws and regulations on the statute books that need to be
brought in line with the new constitution. Article 2(1) of the new basic law arms the
supremacy of the constitution: ‘This constitution is the supreme law of the Republic
and binds all persons and all state organs …’. Consequently, article 2(4) states: ‘Any
law, including customary law, that is inconsistent with this Constitution is void to
the extent of the inconsistency, and any act or omission in contravention of this
Constitution is invalid.’
40 African Media Barometer, Kenya Re port 20 09, Wind hoek 2009.
Until amendments to such laws inconsistent with the new constitution have
been passed by the National Assembly, however, they will remain in force. The sixth
schedule of the constitution, which refers to transitional provisions, says in its article
7(1): ‘All law in force immediately before the eective date continues in force and shall
be construed with the alterations, adaptations, qualifications and exceptions necessary
to bring it into conformity with this Constitution.’ This makes it incumbent upon
the legislature to review and amend appropriately all legislation that might be not in
harmony with the supreme law.
Media laws which will thus need to be reviewed, redrafted or repealed include:
3.1 The Media Act 2007 and the Media Bill 2010
The Media Act attempts to regulate the media by establishing a statutory Media
Council. Section 2 of the Act defines media as ‘both electronic and print media
engaged in any production for circulation to the public’, excluding book publishing,
and ‘journalism’ as ‘the collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news or news
articles in newspapers and magazines, radio and television broadcasts, and in the
In order to qualify as a journalist a person needs to be recognised as such by the
Media Council:
[J]ournalist means any person who holds a diploma or a degree in mass
communication from a recognized institution of higher learning and is recognized
as such by the Council, or any other person who was practicing as a journalist
immediately before the commencement of this Act, or who holds such other
qualifications as are recognized by the Council, and earns a living from the practice
of journalism, or any person who habitually engages in the practice of journalism
and is recognized as such by the Council.
Registration of journalists is listed amongst the various functions of the Media Council
in section 4. Overall the council has wide-ranging competencies and responsibilities.
Among these are to:
(a) mediate or arbitrate in disputes between the government and the media,
between the public and the media and intramedia;
(b) promote and protect freedom and independence of the media;
(c) promote high professional standards amongst journalists;
(d) enhance professional collaboration among media practitioners;
(e) promote ethical standards among journalists and in the media;
(f) ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of journalists in the
performance of their duties;
(g) advise the government or the relevant regulatory authority on matters
pertaining to professional, education and the training of journalists and other
media practitioners;
(h) make recommendations on the employment criteria for journalists;
(i) uphold and maintain the ethics and discipline of journalists as set out in this
Act and any other relevant law;
(j) do all matters that appertain to the effective implementation of this Act;
(k) compile and maintain a register of journalists, media enterprises and such
other related registers as it may deem fit;
(l) conduct an annual review of the performance and the general public opinion of
the media, and publish the results thereof in at a least two local newspapers.
Section 5 emphasises that the ‘Council shall operate without any political or other bias
or interference and shall be wholly independent and separate from the government,
any political party, or any nominating authority’.
In 2010 government published for comment a ‘Zero Draft’ Media Bill 2010 meant
to fulfil the requirements of article 34(5) of the new constitution. The draft adds ‘any
commercial enterprise or enterprises’ to the list of institutions from which the Council
is supposed to be independent.
Presently, according to section 6(1) of the Media Act 2007, the Council comprises
13 members, nominated by the Kenya Union of Journalists (2), the Media Owners
Association (3), the Law Society of Kenya (1), the Editors Guild of Kenya (1), schools of
journalism (2), the Kenya Correspondents Association (1), the Public Relations Society
of Kenya (1), the Kenya Institute of Mass Communications (1), and the Kenya News
Agency (1).
The Draft Media Bill 2010 in its section 6 seeks to change this direct nomination
procedure by media bodies only, obviously in order to comply with article 34(5)(b) of
the new Constitution which states that such a council ‘shall … reflect the interest of all
sections of the society’.
Seven (instead of 13) members are to be appointed by the chief justice who will call
for applications to be forwarded to the Judicial Service Commission. The Commission
will then convene a committee comprising representatives of the Media Owners
Association, the Kenya Union of Journalists, the ministry of justice, National Cohesion
and Constitutional Aairs, the State Law Oce and the Editors Guild of Kenya. After
considering and interviewing the applicants, this committee will shortlist at least
three persons qualified for appointment as chairperson and nine persons qualified
for appointment as members. The shortlisted names will then be forwarded by the
Judicial Service Commission to the chief justice who will choose and appoint the
chairperson and the members.
The main dierence between the existing law and the new bill is the stronger
involvement of state organs in the appointment procedure. While under the present
Media Act it is up to a number of media stakeholders to appoint the members of the
council themselves, these are to be vetted in future by a committee which includes
government representatives and finally selected by the chief justice, who is appointed
by the president with the approval of the National Assembly, i.e. the ruling party or
parties. The debate will focus on the question whether this change is in line with the
new constitution, which enjoins Parliament ‘to enact legislation that provides for the
establishment of a body, which shall be independent of control by government’.
Funding comes mainly from monies appropriated by the National Assembly: KES
60 million (US$ 740 000) in 2009 and KES 50 million (US$ 620 000) in 2010. Levies
imposed on all media enterprises and annual fees payable by journalists registered by
the council (KES 2 000 [US$ 25] each) contribute a total of KES 8 million (US$ 100
000) per year.
The funds are spent on salaries, council meetings, administration, training of
journalists and media monitoring. The council also plans to go into research and
publish annually a ‘Status of Media Report’, as well astoreview journalism training
The council establishes a Complaints Commission (section 23 of the Act) consisting
of a chairperson ‘who holds or has held a judicial oce in Kenya or who is an
advocate of the High Court of Kenya of not less than ten years standing’ and four
other persons ‘possessing experience and expertise in any one of the following areas,
that is, journalism, media policy and law, media regulation, business practice and
finance, entertainment, education, advertising or related social issues’. The Bill adds
‘performing arts’ to this list of areas of expertise.
Section 26 of the Act says in its sub-section (1):
Any person aggrieved by
(a) any publication, or any conduct of a journalist media enterprise or the Council; or
(b) anything done against a journalist or media enterprise that limits or interferes
with the Constitutional freedom of expression of such journalist or media
enterprise, may make a written complaint to the Council setting out the grounds
for the complaint, nature of the injury or damage suffered and the remedy sought.
The council refers the complaint to the complaints commission which, according to
section 29, may, after hearing the parties involved, dismiss such grievance as ‘devoid
of merit or substance’, ‘order an oending party to publish an apology and correction’
and/or ‘issue a public reprimand of the journalist or media enterprise involved’.
Although section 26(1)(b) gives the council a mandate beyond dealing with
complaints from consumers of media against publications or broadcasting stations
and enables it, for example, to take up grievances of journalists who feel harassed
by state organs, neither the act nor the bill make any provisions for decisions in this
Any party involved can appeal decisions of the complaints commission to the
council; if the appellant is then still not satisfied he/she can take the appeal to the High
Court. Final decisions shall be ‘enforced as an order of Court’. Section 37 provides for
punitive sanctions if such decisions are not complied with: ‘a fine not exceeding fifty
thousand shillings [US$ 600], or … imprisonment for a term not exceeding three
months, or both’.
Section 35(2) stipulates that the media ‘keep and maintain high professional and
ethical standards and shall, at all times, have due regard to the Code of Conduct set out
in the Second Schedule to this Act’. This code covers all aspects of journalism from
Accuracy and Fairness’ to ‘Hate Speech’.
Media and human rights organisations throughout Africa make a strong case
for voluntary self-regulation of the media in line with clause IX of the African
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ 2002 Declaration of Principles on
Freedom of Expression in Africa, which states that ‘eective self-regulation is the best
system for promoting high standards in the media’. The situation in Kenya seems to
be dierent.
The media industry itself appears to favour a statutory media council – a body whose
decisions, if need be, can be enforced as an order of a court of law, rather than relying
on media houses to do the right thing of their own accord, as a matter of professional
honour. The general feeling is that self-regulation has not been strong and eective
enough whenever attempts to establish such voluntary systems were made in the past.
In 2001, for example, the then voluntary Media Council of Kenya (MCK) drew
up a code of conduct. The major goal at the time was to protect the country’s media
from government interference. The council distributed the code, provided training
and brought stakeholders together to discuss professional ethics. However, many
journalists did not take the time to familiarise themselves with the code. According
to a 2005 report41 they believed that it was useful and important but they rarely
41 Produced by A fric an Women and Child Featu res Services (AWC) and the Friedr ich Ebert Sti ftung (FES) to assess the
impact of t he code of conduct on journa lism et hics in Kenya. 2005.
referred to it. Awareness of its existence did not translate into quality journalism. The
widespread neglect of the code was partly attributed to the lack of an enforcement
mechanism within media houses that would have ensured adherence.
Mitch Odero, a former arbitration chair of the MCK, said in an interview in early
2008,42 shortly after the Media Act came into force, that increasingly media owners
were seeing media as a business and did not concern themselves with ethical and
legal issues. ‘Such owners would rather employ untrained persons who will demand
less [pay].’ Examples often cited in this regard are FM stations, many of which are by
and large manned by untrained people who do not really care about the professional
quality of service they provide. ‘These untrained persons know little about ethics and
law, and this has led to utter disregard of the basic rules of reportage. There is need
for [a] media law …’.
In other African countries, such as Zambia and Nigeria, for example, registration of
journalists and statutory media councils have summarily been declared incompatible
with the guarantee of freedom of expression by the courts.
3.2 The Books and Newspapers Act 1960
According to section 11(1) of this Act any person who wants to start a newspaper
has to be registered with the Registrar of Books and Newspapers and pay a bond of
KES 1 million (US$ 12 300)
as security for or towards the payment of any monetary penalty or damages which
may at any time be imposed upon or adjudged against him upon his conviction
for any offence, under this Act or under any other written law, committed after the
execution of the bond, and relating to the printing or publication of that newspaper
This provision has tended to lock out small players. There are now many new emerging
media which are not registered and thus do not provide oce addresses or particulars
of the places they operate from.
3.3 The Films and Stage Plays Act 1963
According to this Act no film may be produced in Kenya without approval by a licence
oce appointed by a government minister (section 4).
42 Interview 13 February 2008.
3.4 The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Act 1989 and The Kenya
Communications Acts 1998 and 2009
These laws are presently subject to review, with the latter to be replaced by a new piece
of legislation published as a bill in 2010. For details see chapters 5 and 6.
4 Other laws which impact on media and freedom of expression
There are other pieces of legislation that also have an impact on a free media and need
to be amended to make them compatible with the new constitution of 2010. Among
these are:
4.1 The Penal Code
Section 66 says:
(1) Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely
to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace is guilty of a
(2) It shall be a defence to a charge under subsection (1) if the accused proves
that, prior to publication, he took such measures to verify the accuracy of the
statement, rumour or report as to lead him reasonably to believe that it was
According to section 36 such ‘misdemeanour’ is punishable with imprisonment for a
term not exceeding two years or with a fine, or with both.
Sections 194 to 199 deal with defamation. Section 194 defines ‘libel’ as ‘any
defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other
person’, punishable with a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine. ‘Defamatory
matter’ is defined in section 195 as any ‘matter likely to injure the reputation of any
person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or likely to damage any person
in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation’. Section 197 provides for a
public interest defence by saying that defamation is not unlawful if ‘the matter is true
and it was for the public benefit that it should be published’.
There has been an alarming increase in libel and defamation suits in recent years.
In many instances lawyers take the initiative by advising clients that they ‘can get
money’43 out of a certain media house. There are no limitations on damages, with the
result that lawyers can demand very high amounts based on precedents – between
KES 20 and 30 million (US$ 250 000 to 370 000). For example during the Moi
regime, courts ruled in favour of a former cabinet minister, Nicolas Biwott,44 in libel
cases. Biwott was awarded KES 20 million (US $250 000) in a defamation suit he
had filed against The People newspaper for publishing an article accusing him of
corruption. Biwott won four libel cases, bringing his total awards to KES 60 million
(US$ 740 000).
The extremely high legal costs incurred in the process often threaten the accused
media companies with bankruptcy. For this reason, media houses prefer to settle
out of court, in keeping with the motto that a bad settlement is better than a good
judgment. The bigger organisations retain permanent legal advisers to avoid such
claims in the first place.
All this has resulted in a dangerous decline in reporting on corruption. The threat
of being sued also aects booksellers and librarians, who have taken to seeking legal
advice before handling certain publications, thereby inhibiting intellectual freedom
and access to information.
Section 67 of the Penal Code provides special protection for foreign dignitaries
against defamation:
Any person who, without such justification or excuse as would be sufficient in the
case of the defamation of a private person, publishes anything intended to be read,
or any sign or visible representation, tending to degrade, revile or expose to hatred or
contempt any foreign prince, potentate, ambassador or other foreign dignitary with
intent to disturb peace and friendship between Kenya and the country to which such
prince, potentate, ambassador or dignitary belongs, is guilty of a misdemeanour.
Section 77 deals with subversion and defines ‘subversive means’ in sub-section 3(f),
among others, as any means
intended or calculated to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection
against any public officer, or any class of public officers, in the execution of his
or their duties, or any naval, military or air force or the National Youth Service for
the time being lawfully in Kenya or any officer or member of any such force in the
execution of his duties …
43 Oloo Jan ak, ch air, Kenya C orrespondents Association (KCA), interview on 12 Febru ary 20 08.
44 Biwott was an ex tremely p owerful polit ician du ring the KA NU regime and known to have been c lose to then President
Although ‘comments or criticism made in good faith and with a view to the removal of
any causes of hatred or enmity between races and communities’ are not classified as
‘subversive’, this section could be used to silence strongly expressed opinions.
4.2 The National Cohesion and Integration Act 2008
Section 62 makes it an oence for a person to utter words ‘intended to incite feelings
of contempt, hatred, hostility, violence or discrimination against any person, group
or community on the basis of ethnicity or race’, and imposes a penalty of ‘a fine
not exceeding one million shillings (US$ 12 300) or imprisonment for a term not
exceeding five years, or both’.
4.3 The Preservation of Public Security Act 1967
Section (2)(d) of this act gives the president the power to derogate from the right to
free expression even in times of peace without legislative or judicial oversight. It says
that regulations imposed by the president for the preservation of public security may
make provision for:
… the censorship, control or prohibition of the communication of any information, or
of any means of communicating or of recording ideas or information including any
publication or document, and the prevention of the dissemination of false reports.
5 Conclusions and recommendations
The new Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees freedom of expression and the media
according to international standards and in line with the Declaration of Principles on
Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in 2002.
Article 34(5), however, provides for a statutory media regulator. The establishment
of such a body goes against the principles expressed in the declaration and ignores
best practice in Africa and beyond. Clause 9 of the Declaration says:
Any regulatory body established to hear complaints about media content, including
media councils, shall be protected against political, economic or any other undue
interference. Its powers shall be administrative in nature and it shall not seek to
usurp the role of the courts.
The Media Act 2007, which established a statutory Media Council supported by
the media industry, attempted to provide for a semblance of self-regulation of the
media combined with the possibility of recourse to the courts to enforce decisions.
The Media Bill 2010, while meant to bring this act in line with the new constitution,
greatly strengthens the role of government in the council. It could thus be seen as
incompatible with the new constitution, which stipulates that such a council should
be independent from government.
The discrepancy between the revenue received by the Media Council from the
state and that generated by fees/levies (a ratio of seven to one) reveals a dangerous
dependency of the regulatory body on government funding.
Other pieces of legislation with an impact on freedom of expression and freedom
of the media need to be harmonised with the new constitution and its Bill of Rights.
In particular, the provisions on defamation in the Penal Code pose an immediate
threat to freedom of the media because they lend themselves to abuse with the aim
of crippling media houses into bankruptcy. This has a chilling eect on independent
journalism. The Books and Newspapers Act 1960, which imposes payment of a
substantial bond for any new publication, locks out small players from the market or
drives them into illegality.
Media regulation
• While the existence of a statutory media council goes against the Declaration
of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa and best practice elsewhere
on the continent, it needs to be recognised that such a body has been made
obligatory by the new constitution – which is unlikely to be changed in the
near future. With this in mind, the Media Bill 2010 should be reviewed to
ensure that as many elements of self-regulation as possible are included by:
developing a formula for membership of and appointment
procedures which guarantee the independence and integrity of
the Council and ensure that both the media and the public at
large are represented on it;
introducing mechanisms to procure funds from the industry
for the Council to avoid dependence on the state.
• There should be no registration of journalists by any statutory body.
• Publications should not be required to register with a special registrar or to pay
any bond before going into business. It is sucient for them to comply with the
Companies Act. The Books and Newspapers Act should therefore be repealed.
Law reform in regard to legislation affecting the media
• The appropriate media lobby groups should initiate an audit of all pieces of
legislation aecting the media which need to be reviewed in order to conform
to the new constitution.
• Foremost among such legal provisions in need of review are:
sections 194 to 199 of the Penal Code, whereby defamation
should be de-criminalised and become a matter of civil law,
and the amounts of damages imposed must be limited by law.
section 67 of the Penal Code, which gives special protection to
foreign dignitaries, must be repealed.
sections 66 (false statements) and 77 (subversion) must be
reviewed to avoid any abuse of these provisions.
section 62 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act 2008
with its broad definition of incitement endangers freedom of
expression and must be brought in line with the constitution.
section 2(d) of the Preservation of Public Security Act, which
empowers the president to limit freedom of expression, must
be repealed.
Access to information
• Freedom of information legislation needs to be developed with the full
participation of civil society in order to give eect to the right to access to
information as guaranteed in article 35 of the new constitution.
The Broadcasting Landscape
1 The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the only broadcaster in the country with
a nationwide network for both radio and television, including services to remote rural
areas which may not make economic sense for commercial broadcasters. However, in
some parts of the country transmission is hampered by a lack of electricity.
The KBC runs the following channels:
1.1 Public service radio
• National Kiswahili service with a listenership ‘over the past seven days’ of 52
per cent;45
• National English service (listenership 44 per cent);
• Regional Eastern service transmitting in Somali, Borana, Rendile, Burji and
Turkana (this cluster serves the marginalised and remote areas in Kenya);
• Regional Central service transmitting in Meru, Embu, Maasai and Kamba;
• Regional Western service transmitting in Luo, Kisii, Kalenjin, Kuria, Teso,
Luhya, Suba and Pokot.
1.2 Commercial radio
• Metro FM transmitting to the major urban areas of Nairobi, Mombasa,
Nakuru, Nyeri, Eldoret and Kisumu;
• Coro FM transmitting to Nairobi and the Mount Kenya Region (listenership
footprint of 65 per cent);
45 The Steadman Group, Aud ience Resea rch Sur vey, Kenya – Marc h 2009, K ampala 2009.
• Pwani FM transmitting to the Coastal region (listenership footprint of 44
per cent).
1.3 Television service
• Free-to-air KBC, Channel One, serving the entire country (viewership of 68
per cent). (For details see chapter 6.)
2 Commercial broadcasters
Liberalisation of the airwaves began in the early 1990s. There is now a vibrant
broadcasting industry in Kenya.
Table 2: Commercial radio stations in Kenya
Licence holder Station Location(s)
StangyBoyz SoundAsia Nairobi,Mombasa
GarissaFM GarissaFM Nairobi
KaleeLtd KassFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Eldoret,Kisii
RoyalMediaServices ChamgeFM Nairobi,Nakuru,Eldoret
RoyalMediaServices Hot96 Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyahururu,
RoyalMediaServices MulembeFM Nairobi,Eldoret,Webuye
RoyalMediaServices InooroFM Nairobi,Nakuru,Nyahururu,Nyeri,Eldoret,Meru,
RoyalMediaServices RadioCitizen Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyahururu,
RoyalMediaServices RamogiFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Kisii,
RoyalMediaServices MusyiFM Mombasa,Machakos,Kitui,Kibwezi
RoyalMediaServices GoldFM Machakos
RoyalMediaServices MuugaFM Meru
RoyalMediaServices BahariFM Malindi
RoyalMediaServices Egesa Nairobi,Kisii
BridgeMedia HomeboyzRadio Nairobi
Digitopia MileleFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nyahururu,Nyeri,
Licence holder Station Location(s)
EAT N QFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret,Meru
RadioOneIPP EastAfricaRadio Nairobi
NationMediaGroup EasyFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,
GOCommunications Radio1 Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru
GOCommunications Classic105 Nyeri,Kitui,Malindi,Kapenguria
RadioJambo Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyahururu,
Classic105 Machakos
CapitalGroup CapitalFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru,Nyeri,Timboroa,
RadioAfrica Kiss100 Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,
RegionalReach KamemeFM Nairobi,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret,Meru
NeuralDigital RadioUmojaFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru,Malindi,Garissa,Voi
NeuralDigital Namulolwe Kisumu
ToadsMediaGroup RadioMaisha Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,Meru
FutureTechElectronics Radio316 Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru
USIU USIU Nairobi
KitamboCommunications Classic105 Nairobi
Tel eco mm s
StarFM Nairobi,Garissa,Mandera,Wajir,Dadhaab
LingamEnterprises EastFM Nairobi,Mombasa
Pro-PhaseMarketing RadioSalaam Mombasa,Malindi,Garissa,Lamu
UniversalEntertainment RahmaFM Mombasa
KayaFM Mombasa,Malindi
FebaRadio BarakaFM Mombasa,Malindi
SirwoEnterprises Classic105 Mombasa,Nakuru,Eldoret,Timboroa,Meru
SirwoEnterprises x-fm Machakos
TonyMsalameProductions ShekiFM Mombasa
Osienala RadioLakeVictoria Kisumu
Ke-Wi Media RadioSahara Kisumu
TBNFamilyMedia Radio316 Kisumu
SautiyaMwananchi Nakuru
WestMediaLtd WestFM Webuye,Kapenguria
SautiCommunications PowerFM Machakos
MbaituFM Machakos
KangemaFM Kangema,Narok,BunyalaWest
SyokimauFM Kitui
RahmaBroadcastingLtd RadioRahma Malindi,Garissa,Lamu
SautiYaPwani SetalRadio Malindi
GarissaFM FrontierRadio Garissa,Wajir
YepchinitFM&T VLtd SemaFM Kericho
StarRadio&TVNetwork Q-FM Kisii
mwanedufm Voi
AbeingoNetworkingSHG Hossana89.5FM Lodwar
Source: Co mpiled fr om: List of as signed bro adcas t freque ncies 2010 46
The commercial radio market is dominated by six groups:
• Royal Media Services (RMS), a multi-media house which owns 12 radio
stations. Radio Citizen is their flagship channel and has the widest coverage
of all private stations. The company is owned by businessman Samuel
Macharia who is said to be politically well-connected.
• The Radio Africa Group owns two radio stations and another two through Radio
Holdings International. Of these, Radio Jambo has the widest reach, covering
most of the country. The group is owned by Ghanaian Patrick Quarcoo.
• Other operators with a wide reach are the Capital Group owned by
businessman Chris Kirubi (Capital FM), the Nation Media Group, owned by
the Aga Khan Foundation (Easy FM), Kalee Ltd, owned by C. Kulei Joshua
(Kass FM), and Digitopia (Milele FM).
Another prominent media owner has been Rose Kimotho of Regional Reach Ltd. who
made history as the first Kenyan woman to start a radio station. Her Kameme FM,
broadcasting in Kikuyu, was seen as a symbol of the power of radio in rejuvenating
indigenous languages. She also launched K24, a television news station. However,
these two stations have since been acquired by TV Africa Holdings (now trading as
Media Max Ltd).
46 ting/ ml. T he list inc ludes sma ll vernacular radio st ations which are
classi fied by the C ommunications Com mission of Kenya as ‘commercial’.
The programming formats of commercial radio stations are mainly entertainment
with news updates at the top of the hour, sometimes also news briefs on sports and
business. Almost all stations have call-in programmes.
According to audience research done in 2008,47 the most favourite private radio
stations are: Citizen FM with a listenership of 61 per cent ‘over the past seven days’,
Kiss FM (29 per cent), Easy FM (26 per cent), Classic FM (19) and Capital FM (11).
Table 3: Commercial television stations in Kenya
Licence holder Station(s) Location(s)
EAT N EAT N T V Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret,Nyambene
DMTV DMTV Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Eldoret
RoyalMediaServices Citizen Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nyeri,Eldoret,Rongai,
NationMediaGroup NT V Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret,
KitamboCommunications KissTV Nairobi
CapitalGroup GBS Nairobi
LanciaMedia Freeview Nairobi
KTNBarazaLtd K TN Nairobi,Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret,
RadioOneIPP EAT V Nairobi
Stellavision STV Mombasa,Kisumu,Nakuru,Nyeri,Eldoret
Source: Co mpiled fr om: List of as signed bro adcas t freque ncies 2010 48
Three television stations dominate the private sector: Nation TV (NTV) owned by
the Nation Media Group (Aga Khan Foundation), Citizen TV owned by Royal Media
Services (businessman Samuel Macharia), and Kenya Television Network (KTN)
owned by KTN Baraza Ltd, part of Standard Group Ltd whose owners are former
President Daniel Arap Moi, his son and a businessman Joshua Kulei. By virtue of
their cross-media holdings (see below) and their ownership, the channels are seen as
wielding significant political power, but also as independent from government control.
All these stations are mainly entertainment oriented and dominated by foreign
material such as soap operas, Nigerian movies and music, but also oer extensive
news bulletins. Citizen TV, which has carved out a niche for itself in the production
of local content, has prompted some competitors to also invest more strongly in this
area of programming.
47 The Steadman Group, op cit.
48 Ibid.
Other stations have introduced an element of specialisation into Kenyan TV by
addressing the interests of specific segments of the population. East African Television
(EATV), owned by Tanzanian businessman Reginald Mengi, has been particularly
successful with the youth due to its promotion of African music.
According to audience research in 2008,49 the most favourite private TV stations
are Citizen TV with a viewership ‘over the past seven days’ of 78 per cent, KTN (72)
and NTV (70).
Station owners, both radio and TV, are known to be quietly influencing editorial
decisions, especially on controversial political stories and reports involving major
advertisers. The former chief executive of Radio Simba, Sheila Amdany,50 said she had
never influenced editorial decisions until the 2007 post-election violence broke out. At
the time the station took a stand by airing programmes about peace and reconciliation
and Amdany made it a requirement that as the owner she would be informed in
advance of who was going to be invited to participate in important programmes such
as live discussions. She said this was to ensure that interviewees who were known to
be ‘militant’ and capable of inciting audiences were not given a platform to preach
hatred when peace was so badly needed.
Ondeko Aura51 of Kenya Television Network, on the other hand, denies that owners
interfere with editorial decisions: ‘The station makes its own judgement on news
items to be carried on air.’ However it is obvious to viewers that KTN essentially
supports the main opposition party ODM and that it did the same during and after
the 2007 election.52
The former executive director of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Esther
Kamweru,53 points out that the ministry of information has on more than one occasion
exercised unwarranted influence over decision making in the broadcasting sector. For
example, she reported that the director of Kass FM was ‘cautioned’ by the ministry
during the post-election violence period in early 2008.
Companies with big advertising budgets have great clout over particular media
organisations and the content they oer. A key example is Safaricom, the country’s
leading mobile phone provider. In July 2007, The Leader, a now defunct weekly
newspaper owned by Royal Media Services, published a story entitled ‘Who Gets
Safaricom billions’, in which the company was accused of unethical corporate business
practices – bordering on corruption, as the Parliamentary Committee on Public
Investments later noted. The company retaliated by withdrawing all advertising and
49 The Steadman Group, op cit.
50 Interview with CEO Sheila Amdany in Nairobi, 29 January 20 08. Rad io Simba was acqu ired by t he Standa rd Group in
early 2009.
51 Assist ant news editor, Kenya Television Network, inter view 21 February 2008.
52 Robert Mu hanji, an ordinar y viewer, interview 21 Febru ary 2008.
53 Interv iew on 30 January 2008.
sponsorships from RMS’ print, radio and television outlets and the media house stood
to lose KES 5 million (US$ 60 000) per week. The adverts were reinstated after RMS
management had apologised profusely. The magazine Expression Today reported the
case in a story titled ‘Move over governments, here come the corporations’.54
3 Community and other forms of broadcasting
3.1 Community broadcasting
Community broadcasting is recognised as the third sector of broadcasting in Kenya
besides public and private broadcasting. The sector has been growing since the first
community radio station was licensed in 2004.
Table 4: Community broadcasting in Kenya (geographically based)
Licence holder Station Location(s)
KochFM KochFM Nairobi
SIDAREC(Pumwani) GhettoFM Nairobi
PamojaDevelopment(Kibera) Pamoja99.9FM Nairobi
StPaul’sUniversity(Limuru) LightFM Nairobi
KenyattaUniversity(KU) KU99.9FM Nairobi
KenyaCollegeofCommsTech MMUK Nairobi
MasenoUniversity EquatorFM Kisumu
CommunityBroadcastingServices RadioMambo91.7FM Webuye
SDABaratonUniversity BaratonUniversity Kapsabet
MasindeMuliroUniversity MMUS TFM Kakamega
DaystarUniversity 103.1ShineFM Machakos
WajirCommunityRadio WajirRadio Wajir
Mang’elete RadioMang’elete Kibwezi
UnjiruTV UTV Machakos
StarRadioandTV StarTV Kisii
BondoCMC Maendeleo/SautiFM Rarieda
ShinyaluMultimediaCentre ShinyaluFM Kakamega
MugamboTelecentre Mug am bo Yetu Tigania
KonoiniaYouthGroup KonoiniaFM(yettogoonair) Nairobi
DominionCMC MweneduFM Tait a
Source: Co mpiled fr om: List of as signed bro adcas t freque ncies 2010 ,55 the last m entione d five sta tions name d by UNESCO Keny a which has
sponsored their establishment
54 Expression Today, March 2008.
55 g/broadcasting/register.html.
The first community broadcaster to go on air in February 1994 – after waiting for over
five years to be granted a licence – was Mang’elete Community Radio. The station was
part of an East African Community Media Project coordinated by EcoNews Africa.56
It serves the semi-arid Makueni District and broadcasts in Kikamba, interspersed
with Kiswahili, for 16 hours per day (06h00 to 22h00). The station was developed by
the Mang’elete Community Integrated Development Project (MCIDP), which brings
together 33 poor rural women groups. Originally these started out as radio listening
groups for the purpose of exchanging information on nutrition, reproductive health,
agriculture and other developmental issues. The idea was that the establishment
of a radio station of their own would enable them to acquire more information and
knowledge as well as enhance their participation.
In 200757 Koch, Sidarec, Sarakasi Trust, Pamoja Development and St. Paul’s
Theology University were allocated one frequency (99.9 FM) in Nairobi. They
broadcast within a radius of 3km to avoid overspill.
Over the past three years, licences have been issued to an additional seven stations.
A unique style of ‘broadcasting’ in Kenya is the one conducted by the Migori
clan in the Migori area, known as wheelbarrow station broadcasting. Because the
group lacks resources to obtain equipment for a community radio station it records
its programmes on cassettes in the local language Dholuo. These are played back
on speakers mounted on a wheelbarrow which moves from place to place in the area
where the Migori clan lives.
Community radio stations serve those whose concerns rarely receive attention
in other forms of media: ‘They are everything to everyone in the community.’58 The
broadcasts are informative and educational and at the same time entertain. The
stations also run news bulletins, news briefs and current aairs programmes, which
vary in frequency from daily to weekly. Meshack Kamba points out a special feature of
his Radio Mang’elete: ‘In particular we provide a forum for local artists to record and
air their music.’59
As non-profit projects, these community stations depend on volunteers to do the
day-to-day work. Once they have acquired enough on-the-job training and experience,
these volunteers usually move on to paying posts in the private broadcasting sector.
While this makes community radios a training ground for commercial radio and
creates chances for people to become employed, it also means that the sector is subject
to a regular turn-over of sta and the attendant loss of skills.
Another challenge is the ownership structure. Ideally community radios should
56 EcoNews Africa, var ious repor ts, 2002–20 07.
57 Commu nications Commission of Kenya (CCK), Annual Report 2006/2007.
58 EcoNews Africa , various reports, 2002 –2007.
59 Interview with Meshack Ka mba, Radio Mang’elete, Nthongoni, 28 February 2008.
be governed by representatives of the communities who will sit on the station’s local
management committee (LMC). In some stations this is already the case, while others
are still struggling to form governance structures representative of the communities
they serve. Yusuf Maleli of Mang’elete Radio,60 for example, points out that wrangles
among and within the 33 women’s groups who own the station are a constant threat to
the development of the station as a lot of time is spent trying to resolve or avert conflict.
There are two community TV stations in Kenya: Star TV, based in Kisii, and
Uunjiru TV, based in Machakos.
3.2 Religious broadcasting
In addition to geographically defined community broadcasters the country has seen a
proliferation of religious-based broadcasters, both radio and television.
Table 5: Religious broadcasting in Kenya
Licence holder Station Location(s)
KenyaEpiscopalConference RadioWaumini Nairobi,Kitui
KenyaEpiscopalConference RadioAkicha Lodwar
BibliaHusemaStudios BibliaHusema Nairobi,Nakuru,Eldoret,Timboroa,
ChristIsTheAnswerMinistries HopeFM Nairobi,Mombasa,Tomboroa
CatholicDioceseofNakuru RadioAmani Nakuru
InternationalChildren’sMission JesusisLordRadio Nakuru,Timboroa
WordofTruthMinistries FishFM Eldoret
RadioMariaKenya RadioMaria Mur ang’a
SeventhDayAdventist Wik watyo105.3 Kitui
SautiyaRehemaRT VNetwork Sayare Eldoret,Kericho,Kisii,Kapenguria,
TransworldRadio SIFA Garissa,Mandera,Wajir,Voi,Lamu,
YepchinitFM&T VLtd SemaFM Kericho
FaithMinistries&ChurchesIntern’l Thejustliveth Kericho
AfricanGospelChurch RadioInjili Kericho
ChristCo-workersFellowship Light&LifeFM Kericho
SDANyamiraConference KisimaFM Kisii
InternationalChristianMinistries ImaniRadio Kapenguria
60 Interv iew wit h Yusuf Maleli, in c harge of news, Radio Ma ng’elete, Nt hongoni, 28 February 2008.
FutureTechElectronics FamilyTV Nairobi,Mombasa,Nakuru,Eldoret
SautiYaRehemaRTV SYRTV Eldoret,Timboroa,Rongai,Machakos
BibliaHusemaStudios BHBTV Timboroa
SeventhDayAdvenstist-EAU Hopechannel( TV) Kitui,Kisii
Source: Co mpiled fr om: List of as signed bro adcas t freque ncies 2010 61
These stations are dicult to categorise. They do not qualify as community radios
because they do not fulfil the requirements of access and participation by the
communities they serve. At the same time, as many of them argue, they are not
commercial stations since they do not make profits and survive on donations.
As the table shows, in some areas such as Kericho religious radios stations seem to
have almost a monopoly on the FM airwaves.
3.3 International broadcasters
Quite a number of international broadcasting services have been granted FM radio
frequencies and station Al Jazeera holds a television licence. Historically these
broadcasters have played an important role in balancing the propaganda broadcast by
the KBC and they continue to do so.
Table 6: International broadcasters in Kenya
Licence holder Station Location(s)
RadioFranceInternational RadioFrance Nairobi,Mombasa
ChinaRadioInternational ChinaRadio Nairobi
BritishBroadcastingCorporation BBCWorldService Nairobi,Mombasa,Timboroa
InternationalBroadcastingBureau VoiceofAmerica Nairobi
STVHoldings AlJazeera(T V) Nairobi
Source: Co mpiled fr om: List of as signed bro adcas t freque ncies 2010 62
4 Technical standard and accessibility of services
One of the mandates of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) as the supposedly
public broadcaster is to provide universal access to radio and television for all citizens
in the country. Kenya’s topography, however, poses challenges when it comes to setting
up transmitters in remote parts of the territory. Even with high altitude areas spread
62 Ibid.
out in various locations that are ideal for transmitter sites, some low altitude areas still
remain with very poor signal reception. Multiple booster stations every few kilometres
would be required to fill the gaps.63
In several cases the KBC is serving other broadcasting organisations as a common
carrier by oering its masts as sites for transmitters at minimal costs. Mobile phone
service providers also use this service.
The private and community radio stations all broadcast on FM as do the KBC’s
services Coro, Pwani FM and Metro. The KBC’s other radio stations such as the
English and Kiswahili services transmit mainly on AM – which puts them at a serious
disadvantage in their competition with operators in the other two sectors. Forty-three
FM frequencies throughout the country have been allocated to the KBC64 but are not
yet being used.
5 Concentration of media ownership
Clause 14(3) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Declaration
of Principles on Freedom of Expression says:
States should adopt effective measures to avoid undue concentration of media
ownership, although such measures shall not be so stringent that they inhibit the
development of the media sector as a whole.
Concentration of media ownership in Kenya has in recent years become a major point
of concern. The National Information and Communications (ICT) Policy issued by
the ministry of information ad communicationss in January 2006, for example, said
in its section 4.11:
In order to promote diversity of views and freedom of expression, concentration of
ownership of print and electronic media in a few hands will be discouraged. Limits
to cross-media ownership will be set through regulations to be issued from time to
time and through competition laws.
63 Njoki Njeru, Tech nical Services KBC, interv iew 19 Marc h 2008.
64 Calculated from: List of assig ned TV broadcast f requencies 2010, http://www.cck astin g/
The Kenya Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations which became law in January
2010 have now put the issue of media concentration firmly on the public agenda. The
regulations say in section 10:
(1) No persons other than the public broadcaster shall be directly or indirectly,
entitled to more than one broadcast frequency or channel for radio or television
broadcasting in the same coverage area. Provided the Commission shall
prescribe a timeframe for existing stations to comply with this requirement.
(2) The shareholding of a licensee shall at all times comply with the Government’s
Communications Sector Policy, as may be published from time to time.
The regulations caused an outcry. Media lawyer Paul Muite, for example, is quoted as
saying in January 2010 they ‘were aimed at giving the government a hand in media
control’ and warning that their eects ‘would be disastrous for democracy’.65 On the
other hand, critics of cross-media ownership and media concentration have long
pointed out the dangers of too much clout being held by just a few players. They cite
the hypothetical example of a certain media organisation with dierent media outlets
making a concerted eort to propagate a certain idea and, with their combined muscle,
being able not just to influence public opinion but to sway it the way they wish. Patrick
Ochieng of the Ujamaa Centre in Mombasa says that ‘audiences might only have one
side of a story and therefore lack the full range of information required for them to
make a reasoned argument or judgement’.66
If implemented the regulations would indeed lead to dramatic changes in the
media landscape, given the current high degree of concentration.
Nation Media Group (NMG), for example, owns several newspapers, two television
stations and two radio services. The Standard Group Limited (SLG) owns The Standard
newspaper, the Kenyan Television Network (KTN) and Radio Maisha. Royal Media
Services (RMS) runs 12 radio services and Citizen Television. The Radio Africa
Group owns four radio stations (Kiss FM, Classic FM, East FM and Radio Holdings
International), two television stations (Kiss TV and Classic TV) as well as a daily
newspaper, The Nairobi Star. TV Africa Holdings now owns Stellavision, K24 TV,
Kameme FM, and the People Daily.
Presently there is no time frame in place for existing stations to comply with the
requirements of the regulations.
65 ‘Muite speaks against new media laws’, Capital fm News, 10 Januar y 2010, ht tp://www.capit
66 Interview with Patrick Och ieng, 10 April 20 08.
6 Conclusions and recommendations
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Declaration of Principles
on Freedom of Expression says in its clause 5:
1) States shall encourage a diverse, independent private broadcasting sector. A
State monopoly over broadcasting is not compatible with the right to freedom
of expression.
2) The broadcast regulatory system shall encourage private and community
broadcasting in accordance with the following principles:
• there shall be equitable allocation of frequencies between private
broadcasting uses, both commercial and community …
• community broadcasting shall be promoted given its potential to broaden
access by poor and rural communities to the airwaves.
The development of both the commercial and the community broadcasting sector in
Kenya over recent years has been impressive although the granting of licences has
happened in ad hoc and opaque manner (further analysis in chapter 5).
The clearly dominant sector, though, is commercial broadcasting. Private radio
and television stations are owned and controlled by powerful media organisations
and business persons many of whom are also active in print media. Most commercial
stations provide similar content, mainly entertainment programmes which attract
advertisers. Concentration of ownership in the broadcasting industry as well as
cross-media ownership endanger media diversity as postulated by the Declaration on
Freedom of Expression whose clause 3 assigns governments an important role in this
Freedom of expression imposes an obligation on the authorities to take positive
measures to promote diversity, which include[s] … availability and promotion of a
range of information and ideas to the public.
Community broadcasting is now recognised as a third sector of broadcasting but is
not actively promoted by the state in any way. The proliferation of religious-based radio
stations is a point of concern, especially in regions where they seem to be the only
easily accessible source of information.
• A policy on media concentration needs to be developed and existing
legislation amended (see chapter 5) with the objective to avoid or reduce over-
concentration of ownership in the media. Such a policy should recognise
the realities on the ground and introduce anti-monopoly measures in a way
which does not endanger the economic viability of the present media houses
while at the same time creating greater diversity of ownership.
• Opportunities should be explored for promoting the establishment of
commercial radio stations whose programming is oriented towards more
diverse broadcasting and services in languages other than English. Existing
commercial radio and television stations should be encouraged to oer more
public service content.
• The creation of a media development agency should be considered. Such a
body would promote community broadcasting and other small local media
and be funded by contributions from the media industry and government.
• The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation should invest in the expansion of its
FM transmitter network to utilise all the frequencies allocated to it as soon
as possible.
Digitalisation and its Impact
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency
tasked with coordinating global telecommunications and services, has set a deadline
of 17 June 2015 for broadcasters in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Islamic
Republic of Iran to migrate to digital television broadcasting technology, on both the
transmission and the reception side. Deadlines for the digitalisation of radio have not
yet been determined.
The ITU sees the digitalisation of broadcasting as a means of establishing a
more equitable, just and people-centred information society, leapfrogging ‘existing
technologies to connect the unconnected in underserved and remote communities
and close the digital divide’.67
The switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting will expand the potential
for a greater convergence of services, with digital terrestrial broadcasting supporting
mobile reception of video, internet and multimedia data. Digitalisation of television
is seen as a means of enhancing the viewer’s experience by enabling better quality
viewing through wide-screen, high definition pictures and surround sound, as well as
interactive services. It also allows for innovations such as handheld TV broadcasting
devices (Digital Video Broadcasting–Handheld, or DVB-H), and will mean greater
bandwidth for telecommunication services.68 Importantly, it will also allow for the
creation of many more television channels through greater spectrum eciency.
67 ‘Digita l broadcasting set to transform the com munication landscape by 2015’, June 2006,
newsroom/press _releases/2006/11.htm l.
68 Ibid.
1 Preparedness for switch-over within government and the industry
The government of Kenya aims to complete the process of migration from analogue to
digital television broadcasting by 2012 and has set 1 July 2012 as the switch-o date for
analogue broadcasting – three years before the deadline set by the ITU.
In 2007, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) stopped assigning
television frequencies in order to prepare the country for digital broadcasting.69 In the
same year the government established the Task Force on the Migration from Analogue
to Digital Broadcasting composed of broadcasting experts and representatives
from the information and communications ministry, National Communications
Secretariat, Communications Commission of Kenya, Media Owners Association,
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Media Council of Kenya and Association of
Practitioners in Advertising (APA).
Within six months the task force developed a comprehensive report70 which, among
other things, recommended the establishment of a common transmission platform
for all broadcasting services to optimise available resources. The report proposed that
the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) be licensed as a signal distributor and
that KBC should form a separate company for the purpose of signal distribution. The
reason given was that a government entity like the KBC would focus mainly on free-to-
air services while a private entity was more likely to give preference to pay-TV and leave
out millions of ordinary Kenyans who cannot aord a subscription fee. In addition,
the report proposed, interested investors, including current broadcasters, could also
be licensed to oer signal distribution services.
Following these recommendations government decided that the KBC would
establish a subsidiary known as SIGNET to carry out the broadcast signal distribution
mandate.71 Currently, a public-private partnership arrangement is being worked out
whereby private sector investor(s) will eventually partner with SIGNET in order to
inject the capital needed to fast-track the digital infrastructure roll-out.
The mandate of SIGNET includes taking over the functions previously carried out
by individual broadcasters. For test purposes broadcasters who are members of the
Media Owners Association (MOA) have been providing the KBC with their output.
On 6 December 2010, however, the MOA suspended its cooperation and accused the
KBC of making their content available to foreign broadcasters, who in turn charge
audiences for their services.72 The MOA also accused the KBC and the government of
69 Kenya’s Economic Survey 20 08, p. 233.
70 Policy and Reg ulatory Considerations in the Transition to Dig ital Bro adcasting, Report of the Task Force on Migration
from Ana logue to Digital Broadcast ing in Kenya, September 200 7.
71 Emai l communication with Rosemary Mwa ngi, Digital Migrat ion Secretariat, 7 December 2010.
72 MOA press conference, 6 December 2010, Nairobi.
not acting in a transparent manner and called on government to disclose its policy on
digital migration.
The report of the task force further recommended that in order to reduce the cost
of migration, the existing transmitting sites and infrastructure be used for digital
transmission. The laying of large capacity fibre optic cables is necessary in order to
connect these sites.73
Another task force recommendation was that the government, in consultation
with the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), should establish a Digital
Migration Secretariat to manage the migration process within a specified timetable
and develop an appropriate switch-over strategy.
According to this secretariat, no research has yet been conducted to assess the
preparedness of the broadcasting industry for the switch-over.74 It can be assumed,
however, that most existing broadcasters already have state-of-the-art digital TV studios
and that only transmission is analogue. KBC’s production studios use integrated
technology (both digital and analogue).
2 Preparedness for switch-over on the part of consumers
Most consumers in Kenya do not know the dierence between analogue and digital
broadcasting. They will have access to a range of new services and will be faced with
new costs and the pressure to change quickly to services they may not be familiar
with. The Task Force on Migration from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Kenya
anticipated this scenario and proposed that in the migration process the government
should give priority to the concerns of consumers who are likely to be the most
aected. The task force underscored that the decisions of consumers will aect the
success of the migration, and therefore recommended that the government institute
measures to ensure availability of set-top boxes and digital transmission countrywide
at the time of the switch-over.
The task force further recommended that a campaign be conducted to inform
consumers on the need for and the benefits of the migration. This consumer education
process should include the dierence between analogue and digital services, set-top
boxes, the period of migration, switch-over dates, policy issues, financial implications,
quality of service and reception problems. Following this recommendation, the Digital
Migration Committee has on several occasions placed paid advertisements in the local
73 Interview with Dr Bita nge Ndemo, pe rmanent secret ary in the min istr y of information and communication, 21
Februa ry 20 08.
74 R. Mwangi, op.cit.
daily newspapers, explaining digital migration in a question and answer format.75 What
is not clear though is whether ordinary citizens have engaged with such information
and whether these adverts have contributed to their understanding.
Consumers are mainly concerned about the financial implications of the switch-
over: how much the necessary equipment will cost and whether the cost will be within
their purchasing power.
The task force recommended that the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the CCK
define the minimum standards for set-top boxes to be used in Kenya. This is a
measure to ensure that the market is not flooded with low quality equipment but
subject to some form of quality control. The KBC has appointed agents to sell set-top
boxes. These boxes have been retailing for KES 7 00076 (US$ 85).
The sale of the set-top boxes, however, got o to a rocky start. Kenya introduced
Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVP-T) in December 2009. This was seen as
the easier and cheaper option compared to the much more modern and higher quality
HD T V. 77 A year later, however, the government decided to go for the more advanced
DVB-T2 version, which has far more improved features to transmit the signals.
Importation of DVP-T set-top boxes was stopped and 30 000 viewers in Nairobi, who
had already bought these boxes, now have to buy the newer, more advanced version
which is compatible with the DVB-T2 standard.78
The process could be further complicated by the call of the minister of information
and communications in December 2009 to explore the possibility of manufacturing
and assembling set-top boxes in the country. The University of Nairobi’s engineering
department is said to have embarked on producing aordable set-top boxes. However,
information on this initiative is still scarce.
To keep the price for set-top boxes at an aordable level, government has agreed to
a request by the ministry of information and communications to grant a tax waiver
for the devices.
For the 50 per cent of Kenyans classified as ‘deprived’ by the UNDP’s Human
Development Index the current price of KES 7 000 (US$ 85) for a set-top box seems
unaordable. Presently, however, there is no indication that the government might
consider a subsidy scheme beyond the above measures to help ensure that the poor
have access to television in the digital age.
75 ‘What Kenyan s need to know about migration to di gital TV broadc asting’, Digita l Kenya Secretariat.
76 Interview with E lizabe th Okodo, a sales agent , 19 December 2009.
77 ‘Kenya Welcomes Digit al TV’, Ke ny a To da y, 12–20 December 2009 .
78 ‘Sale of TV set top boxes halted to allow new version’, Business Daily, 2 December 2010.
3 Increased competition
The possible eects that digital television and the potential availability of more
channels may have on competition in a market that is presently characterised by
concentration of ownership are still open to conjecture, according to media academic
Joyce Mwaura:
In a country like Kenya where there are problems around access for new operators
and competitors, and a high concentration of media control in a small number of
hands, digitisation could open up space for a wider diversity of voices and images.
But it could also lead to the opposite.79
Patrick Ochieng of Ujamaa Multi-Media Centre in Mombasa thinks digitalisation
is likely to result in the consolidation of big multi-media organisations that control
chains of production and distribution.80 His fear is that a single powerful organisation
with a large number of channels at its disposal will be able to control information and
shape opinion.
Rosemary Mwangi of the Digital Migration Secretariat points out that the licensing
process will ensure that all tiers of broadcasting categories are given consideration
(public, commercial and community). The secretariat expects competition to set in and
content to be key in future: ‘We therefore foresee a situation where the determining
factor will be the quality of content. Broadcasters will have to be keen on what content
they air with the objective of retaining their audience.’81 She does not exclude mergers,
though, because some broadcasters may not have or be able to produce sucient
content. However, Ms Mwangi says, legislation and licence conditions will adequately
address any anti-competitive behaviour that may emerge. Fees will be structured in
such a way that dierent licence categories are charged dierently.
Esther Kamweru, former director of the Media Council of Kenya and a member of
the task force on digital migration, says that digitalisation opens up an opportunity to
‘rectify the errors’ in the current system. In her opinion there is need for increased
competition and the production of more local content. This, in turn, will create
more employment opportunities and help to develop dierent sectors of the cultural
79 Interv iew wit h Joyce Mwaura, Kenya Inst itute of Mass Commun ication Radio, Nairobi, 10 Apri l 2008.
80 Interview with Patr ick Ochieng, 10 April 20 08.
81 Emai l communication wit h Rosema ry Mwangi, Di gital M igration Secret ariat , 7 December 2010.
82 Inter view with Esther Kamweru, director, Med ia Counc il of Kenya, Nairobi, 30 Januar y 2008.
4 Conclusions and recommendations
The deadline of 1 July 2012 for the switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting
which the government set itself seems very tight, given the fact that digital migration
will require capital investment both at national and individual broadcaster level as well
as new legislation and regulation for the licensing of television operators.
Policies on the set-top boxes necessary to enable reception of digital television
signals still seem unclear, with no decision on tax incentives for the cheaper sale of
such devices having been made and no visible consideration being given to a subsidy
scheme to ensure that the poor will also continue to have access to television in the
digital age.
The process of developing legislation for a new Independent Communications
Commission of Kenya began in early 2011. After its establishment this commission
will have to work on further draft legislation or regulations for licensing procedures
in the new technological environment. This is a lengthy process which has to be
completed well before the switch-over date.
The likely impact of the digitalisation of the television market has not been
thoroughly assessed.
• Government should be urged to:
Develop a clear roadmap towards the deadline of 1 July 2012
in consultation with all stakeholders – broadcasters, signal
distributors and consumers in particular. If this deadline is
too tight, a new, more realistic date should be set as soon as
possible to make rational planning possible.
Step up public awareness for the digital migration process,
targeting the general public, media practitioners and other
Embark on a consumer awareness programme to warn the
public against purchasing soon to be obsolete analogue
television sets.
Develop a suitable subsidy scheme for set-top boxes (STBs) to
avoid the risk of vulnerable communities being permanently
switched o due to the unaordability of such devices.
Set suitable specifications for imported STBs. In addition
government should waive import duties on them.
Devise measures to ensure that importers oer television
sets that are digital, ready to receive signals without STBs, to
prevent people from investing unnecessarily in equipment that
will soon be obsolete.
Ensure protection for vulnerable media such as community
television stations when setting fees payable to the signal
Consider zero-rating tax on digital broadcasting equipment
to enable broadcasting houses to purchase more digital
equipment. This facility could be granted for a limited period.
• The media industry and other stakeholders should prepare themselves for
the development of a new licensing regime for television and develop suitable
• The new Independent Communications Commission of Kenya, once
established, should organise a round table with all stakeholders – broadcasters,
signal distributors and consumers – to discuss a framework for a new
licensing regime for television in the digital age.
Broadcasting Legislation and Regulation
1 The Communications Commission of Kenya
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) was established in February
1999 by the Kenya Communications Act of 1998, and amended by the Kenya
Communications (Amendment) Act of 2008. Before this amendment, licences were
granted without a regulatory framework and thus haphazardly: ‘This was wrong
and explains why some people/organisations have broadcast licences but cannot be
allocated frequencies since the frequencies are simply not available. This is a weakness
in regulation.’83
At the end of 2010 the ministry of information and communications released an
Independent Communications Commission of Kenya Bill 2010, which is expected to
be finalised by mid 2011.84 This bill seeks to reform the CCK in the spirit of the new
constitution, which says in its article 34(3):
Broadcasting and other electronic media have freedom of establishment, subject
only to licensing procedures that—
(a) are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution;
(b) are independent of control by government, political interests or commercial
Section 3(4) of the 2010 Bill would guarantee this independence as provided for in the
83 Inter view with per manent secretary in t he ministry of i nformation, Bitange Ndemo, in Na irobi on 21 Febr uar y 2008.
84 Email communicat ion to the K ictanet list, from the permanent secret ary, min istr y of infor mation, 16 November 2010.
(4) The Commission is independent, and subject only to the Constitution and the
law, and must be impartial and must perform its functions without fear, favour
or prejudice.
(5) The Commission must function without any political or commercial interference.
This section is similar to section 5B of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act
of 2008 which says that ‘except as provided for under this Act or any other law, the
Commission shall exercise its functions independent of any person or body’. Section
5A of the Act, however, which is not set to be repealed by the Bill, gives the minister
for information and communications wide-ranging powers: ‘The Minister may issue
to the Commission policy guidelines of a general nature relating to the provisions
of this Act as may be appropriate.’ And section 46K allows the minister to ‘make
regulations generally in respect to all broadcasting services’ in consultation with the
CCK. The minister did so in 2009 when he issued very detailed regulations in regard
to licensing, programme content and programme codes (see below).
Under the Bill the functions of the CCK will remain unchanged as defined
in section 5(1) of the Act: ‘The object and purpose for which the Commission is
established shall be to licence and regulate postal, information and communication
services in accordance with the provisions of this Act.’
Section 46A describes the functions of the commission in relation to broadcasting
services in more detail:
(a) promote and facilitate the development, in keeping with the public interest, of
a diverse range of broadcasting services in Kenya;
(b) facilitate and encourage the development of Kenyan programmes;
(c) promote the observance at all times, of public interest obligations in all
broadcasting categories;
(d) promote diversity and plurality of views for a competitive marketplace of ideas;
(e) ensure the provision by broadcasters of appropriate internal mechanisms for
disposing of complaints in relation to broadcasting services;
(f) protect the right to privacy of all persons …
The Kenya Communications Act of 1998 as amended in 2008 prescribes the
composition of the board of directors in its section 6:
The management of the Commission shall vest in a Board of Directors of the
Commission which shall consist of—
(a) a chairman who shall be appointed by the President;
(b) the Director-General who shall be appointed by the Minister;
(c) the Permanent Secretary in the ministry for the time being responsible for
information and communications or his representative;
(d) the Permanent Secretary in the ministry for the time being responsible for
finance or his representative;
(e) the Permanent Secretary in the ministry for the time being responsible for
internal security or his representative;
(f) at least seven other persons, not being public officers, appointed by the
Minister and of whom–
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in matters relating to law;
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in postal services;
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in matters relating to
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in matters relating to radio
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in matters relating to
information technology or computer science;
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in matters relating to
telecommunications; and
at least one shall have knowledge or experience in consumer protection
This section clearly does not comply with the new constitution. The Bill therefore aims
to change the composition of the board and the appointment procedure. According
to section 5 of the Bill, seven commissioners are to be appointed by the president
on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission. Seven days after the
commencement of the new act, the minister will call for applications ‘by any qualified
person or person, organisation or group of persons proposing the nomination of any
qualified person’. The Public Service Commission will then ‘consider the applications,
interview and shortlist at least two persons qualified for the appointment as chairperson
and nine persons who qualify for appointment as members’. The president is to choose
the chairperson and the six members from this list and appoint them.
Section 5(3) of the Bill says:
Persons appointed to the Commission must be persons who
(a) are committed to fairness, freedom of expression, openness and accountability
on the part of those entrusted with the governance of a public service; and
(b) when viewed collectively—
(i) are representative of a broad cross section of the population of the
Republic; and
(ii) possess suitable qualifications, expertise and experience in the fields of,
amongst others, broadcasting, telecommunications , law, media, and
economics, or any other related expertise or qualifications.
Section 6(1) disqualifies certain categories of persons from being appointed as
A person may not be appointed as a Commissioner if he or she
(a) is not a citizen of the Republic;
(b) is a public servant or the holder of any other remunerated position under the
(c) is a member of Parliament, any county legislature, local authority or any state
(d) is an office-bearer or employee of any party, movement or organization of a
party political nature;
(e) or his or her family member has a direct or indirect financial interest in the sector;
(f) or his or her business partner or associate holds an office in or with, or is
employed by, any person or body, whether corporate or unincorporated, which
has an interest contemplated in paragraph (e); …
Clause VII of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Declaration of
Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa states:
1) Any public authority that exercises powers in the areas of broadcast or
telecommunications regulation should be independent and adequately
protected against interference, particularly of a political or economic nature.
2) The appointments process for members of a regulatory body should be open
and transparent, involve the participation of civil society, and shall not be
controlled by any particular political party.
3) Any public authority that exercises powers in the areas of broadcast or
telecommunications should be formally accountable to the public through a
multi-party body.
The Act as it stands now is far from complying with this Declaration. The new Bill,
however, also falls short of these requirements in a number of ways:
• According to article 233(2) of the constitution the Public Service Commission
is appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly. If
the president’s choice is approved by the majority of the ruling party only,
the appointments procedure for the CCK will be indirectly controlled by a
political party.
• Although persons or organisations will be invited to nominate candidates –
which means that civil society has a chance to make an input – the procedure
is not open and transparent, given that the Public Service Commission is
not required to publish the list of nominations and to interview candidates
in public.
• The president has the power of finally selecting the commissioners without
any requirement for transparency.
• The Bill in its list of disqualifications for appointment attempts to ensure
that the CCK is protected against interference, particularly of a political or
economic nature. The exclusion of the entire public service, however, seems
overzealous and questionable in light of the provision in the constitution
that the commission should be ‘representative of a broad cross section of
the population of the Republic’ – under the presently envisaged provisions
teachers or academics, for example, would have no chance to serve on the
• The CCK would be accountable to the Minister (section 16) and not directly
to Parliament.
The 2008 Act in its section 84J provides for a Universal Service Fund ‘to support
widespread access to, support capacity building and promote innovation in information
and communications technology services’. According to section 84K the fund is to be
financed mainly from levies paid by licensees and ‘monies as may be provided by
Parliament for that purpose’.
2 Licensing of broadcasters and enforcement of licence conditions
The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act of 2008 in its section 46B(1) names
three categories of broadcasting: public, private and community. According to section
46D of the Act political parties are not eligible for the granting of a broadcasting
2.1 Public broadcasting
‘Public broadcaster’ is defined as meaning the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
established by the KBC Act, and section 46E of the Act ‘designates’ the KBC as ‘the
public broadcaster’ that ‘shall provide public broadcasting services’.
2.2 Private broadcasting
‘Private broadcaster’ means ‘a person licensed by the Communications Commission
under this act to provide commercial broadcast services’. Section 46G of the Act states
that licences for private broadcasters
may include conditions requiring the private broadcaster to
(a) provide coverage in such areas as may be specified by the Commission;
(b) in the case of television, include drama, documentaries and children’s
programmes that reflect Kenyan themes.
The Kenya Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations 2009, issued by the minister
for information and communications, go into more detail and state in section 12 that
a commercial free-to-air broadcaster is to
(b) provide a diverse range of programming that reflects the identity, needs and
aspirations of people in its broadcasting area;
(c) where the commercial broadcaster provides national coverage, be required …
to provide programming that reflects the identity and needs of the people of
Kenya; …
(e) not acquire exclusive rights for the non-commercial broadcast of national events
identified to be of public interest as may be determined by the Commission
from time to time.
2.3 Community broadcasting
According to the act ‘community broadcasting service’
means a broadcasting service which meets all the following requirements—
(a) is fully controlled by a non-profit entity and carried on for nonprofitable
(b) serves a particular community;
(c) encourages members of the community served by it or persons associated
with or promoting the interests of such community to participate in the
selection and provision of programmes to be broadcast in the course of such
broadcasting service; and
(d) may be funded by donations, grants, sponsorships or membership fees, or by
any combination of the aforementioned.
‘Sponsorships’ as one source of funding is not specifically defined in the Act and is
commonly understood to mean financial support for certain programme slots. The
provision does not seem to include the possibility for community broadcasters to
finance themselves also through advertisements, often an important source of income
for this sector. The Broadcasting Regulations in their section 13(1), however, instruct
the CCK to ‘allow community broadcasting licensees to advertise, on their stations,
adverts that are relevant and specific to that community within the broadcast area’.
This means that the local butcher or food store may advertise but not, for example, a
mobile phone provider.
The Regulations further state in section 13(3) and (4) that:
(3) A community broadcaster shall ensure all the funds generated from the
operations of a community broadcasting station are reinvested in activities
benefiting the Community.
(4) The Commission shall monitor community broadcasters to ensure that the
funds generated from operations of a community broadcasting station are
re-invested in activities benefiting the community.
The language here is not clear and the precise meaning of the provision therefore
open to interpretation. Usually a community broadcaster will use the funds generated
firstly for covering its running costs and programming. Only a profit (if any) could be
ploughed back into the community.
‘Community’ is defined as ‘a geographically founded community or any group of
persons or sector of the public having a specific, ascertainable common interest’. This
definition would include religion-based broadcasting stations. It is doubtful, however,
whether many of the existing religious stations allow for any meaningful participation
of members of their community in the ‘selection and provision of programmes to be
broadcast’ or whether they do indeed re-invest their profits (if there are any) into their
Before granting a licence to a community broadcaster, the CCK has to consider
whether all the requirements listed above are fulfilled. According to section 46F of
the Communications Act it can also set a number of licence conditions for this sector:
A licence granted under this section may contain conditions requiring the licensee
(a) ensure that a cross section of the community is represented in the management
of the broadcasting service;
(b) ensure that each member of the community has a reasonable chance to serve
in the management of the broadcasting service;
(c) ensure that members of the community have a way of making their preferences
known in the selection and provision of programmes;
(d) conform to any conditions or guidelines as the Commission may require or
issue with regard to such broadcasting service.
These conditions are in line with best practices but it is doubtful whether all existing
community broadcasters – and religious stations in particular – fulfill all these
conditions, especially in regard to the participation of the community in management
and programming.
The Broadcasting Regulations in section 13 say in regard to content:
A Community broadcaster shall
(a) reflect the needs of the people in the community including cultural, religious,
language and demographic needs;
(b) deal specifically with community issues which are not normally dealt with by
other broadcasting services covering the same area; and
(c) be informational, educational and entertaining in nature;
(d) provide a distinct broadcasting service that highlights community issues.
2.4 Licence conditions for all broadcasters
Section 46H of the Broadcasting Act gives the Commission the power to set ‘standards
for the time and manner of programmes to be broadcast by licensees’. To this end, the
CCK shall:
(a) prescribe a programming code;
(b) review the programming code at least once every two years;
(c) prescribe a watershed period programming [sic] when large numbers of
children are likely to be watching programmes; and
(d) ensure compliance with the programming code prescribed under this section.
The same section also opens the door for voluntary self-regulation of the broadcasting
industry by saying that
the programming code … shall not apply where a licensee is a member of a body
which has proved to the satisfaction of the Commission that its members subscribe
and adhere to a programming code enforced by that body by means of its own
mechanisms and provided further that such programming code and mechanisms
have been filed with and accepted by the Commission.
The power of the CCK to prescribe a programme code was heavily opposed by media
groups and subsequently the Act was amended by adding a section 46S to establish a
Broadcasting Content and Advisory Council with these functions:
(a) (i) administration of [the] broadcasting content aspect[s] and the provisions
of the Act,
(ii) the mechanisms for handling complaints under the Act,
(b) monitor compliance with broadcasting codes and ethics for broadcasters, and
(c) have such other functions and powers as the Board may determine.
The Council consists of:
• The permanent secretary in the ministry of information and communications
and six other members appointed by the minister:
two members nominated by the Commission (one of whom is
recommended by the Inter-Religious Forum);
one member appointed by the Media Council of Kenya and
another by the Media Owners Association;
one member nominated by the Law Society of Kenya, and
one member, who cannot be a civil servant, nominated by the
Out of the seven members of this Council only two are nominated by non-state bodies.
Section 46(1) provides a list of standards to be adhered to by all broadcasters:
All licensed broadcasters shall
(a) provide responsible and responsive programming that caters for the varied
needs and susceptibilities of different sections of the Kenyan community;
(b) ensure that Kenyan identity is developed and maintained in programmes;
(c) observe standards of good taste and decency;
(d) gather and present news and information accurately and impartially;
(e) when controversial or contentious issues of public interest are discussed, make
reasonable efforts to present alternative points of view, either in the same
programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest;
(f) respect the right to privacy of individuals; (…)
(i) ensure that advertisements, either in terms of content, tone or treatment, are
not deceptive or are not repugnant to good taste;
(j) ensure that derogatory remarks based on ethnicity, race, creed, colour and sex
are not broadcast.
The Broadcasting Regulations, in their sections 19 to 36, go into much more detail
with regard to broadcasting content. Section 24, for example, deals with ‘reporting on
controversial issues’ and says in sub-section (b):
… a person or organisation whose views on any controversial issues of public
interest have been criticised during a broadcast, and who wishes to reply to such
criticism is given an opportunity by the licensee to reply to such criticism within a
reasonable time.
Such a broadly framed provision could discourage broadcasters from engaging in
frank criticism of politicians and other influential members of society, for example,
given the expectation of a constant flood of replies which would have to be broadcast
regardless of their validity.
Section 35 gives the CCK the power to ‘require a licensee to commit the minimum
amount of time, as may be specified in the licence, to broadcast of local content or as
may be prescribed from time to time by the Commission by notice in the gazette’. If a
broadcaster is unable to comply with such local content quota, ‘the Commission shall
require such broadcaster to pay such an amount of money, as may be prescribed by
the Commission into the Fund’ – this presumably being the Universal Service Fund
provided for by the 2008 Broadcasting Act in its section 84J, but not defined anywhere
in the Regulations.
2.5 Licensing procedure and enforcement of conditions
The Broadcasting Regulations say in section 6(1)(c) that the Communications
Commission shall ‘develop a frequency plan which sets out how the frequencies
available for broadcasting services in Kenya will be shared equitably and in the public
interest among various tiers of broadcasting’. Section 13(2) specifically states that the
‘Commission shall, through the frequency plan, ensure that an equitable number of
frequencies or channels are reserved for community broadcasting’.
The Commission has to ‘provide information relating to the availability of
broadcasting frequencies, the application requirements and the selection criteria for
issuance of a licence’ (section 3[2]), and to publish applications received for broadcasting
licences in the Gazette and invite the public to comment before it issues a licence’ (sub-
section [5]). It is not clear whether these requirements have ever been followed.
A person applying for a commercial broadcasting licence has to comply with section
4(1) of the Regulations and submit a business plan including:
(a) evidence of technical capacity in terms of personnel and equipment to carry out
the broadcasting services;
(b) evidence of relevant experience and expertise to carry out the broadcasting services;
(c) evidence of the capacity to offer broadcasting services for at least eight
continuous hours in a day;
(d) programme line-up or schedule for the broadcasting services [for] which the
licence is sought …
Section 5(1) outlines the requirements for an application by a community broadcaster:
(a) information on the service for which the community broadcasting licence is
sought …;
(b) the minutes of the meeting where it was resolved to establish a community
broadcasting station;
(c) proof of the sources of funding and sustainability mechanisms;
(d) weekly programme schedules for the broadcasting services [for] which the
licence is sought …
Sub-clause (c) could result in a community radio initiative needing start-up funding
from a donor, for example, being caught in a vicious circle. Donor organisations often
want to be sure that a licence has been granted before considering support for the
initiative while the applicants may not get such a licence without proof of assistance.
Section 10 deals with ‘ownership and control’ and stipulates that ‘no persons
other than the public broadcaster shall be directly or indirectly entitled to more than
one broadcast frequency or channel for radio or television broadcasting in the same
coverage area’. (For discussion of this clause see chapter 3.5)
The Regulations do not determine the duration of licences for the various sectors
of broadcasting services.
If a licensee ‘fails to use the assigned broadcasting frequencies within one year after
assignment by the Commission’, the Commission ‘may’ revoke the licence (section
46J[c] of the Act). The Regulations tighten this provision by saying in section 3(7) that
the Commission ‘shall’ revoke a licence if a licensee does ‘not establish the necessary
broadcasting infrastructure’ within 12 months.
While the imposition of such strict time lines makes sense in view of the scarcity
of FM frequencies in certain cities and towns, it may be hindering the development
of community radios in rural areas. In 2006, for example, the CCK licensed a
community radio broadcaster in northern Kenya intended to cover four small towns.
The initiative was ill resourced, thetarget communitiesin the region are very poor
and have little knowledge of fund raising. The group thus relied on donors and other
well-wishers to provide start-up funds. However, these did not materialise and one
year later the CCK repossessed the frequency. In 2010 Marsabit, one of the locations
in question, was still covered by two FM stations only, Radio Citizen and Transworld
Radio, with four frequencies allocated to the KBC not utilised, and Moyale, another of
the intended target communities, has no FM reception at all (three frequencies have
been granted to the KBC but remain unused).
Section 46J of the Act empowers the CCK to revoke a licence where the licensee
‘(a) is in breach of the provisions of the Act or regulations made thereunder; (b) is in
breach of the conditions of a broadcasting licence’. This could mean that a broadcaster
who breaches the Programme Code, for example, could lose its licence without any
prior warning or request from the CCK to take remedial steps before the ultimate
punishment of closing down the station is handed down.
Overall, the Regulations in section 44 impose severe sanctions for contraventions
of any kind:
Any person who contravenes any provision of these Regulations commits an
offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one million shillings [US$
12 500] or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.
3 Complaints and conflict resolution
The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act 2008 says in its section 46L:
All broadcasters shall establish and maintain a procedure, by which persons
aggrieved by any broadcast or who challenge that a broadcaster is not complying
with this Act, may file complaints.
The procedure must be approved by the CCK.
The Regulations stipulate in section 39(3)(a) that ‘the first opportunity to resolve a
complaint should be given to the broadcaster’. Section 40(1)(b) says that ‘broadcasters
must inform their listeners or viewers at least once a day of the existence of a
complaints handling procedure and how they can lodge a complaint regarding the
broadcast station’.
If a listener or a viewer is not content with the handling of a complaint by the
broadcaster he/she can appeal to the Commission. If the outcome of that appeal is still
not satisfactory, the matter can be taken before a court of law (section 46L of the Act).
In addition to complaints brought by listeners and viewers, the Regulations in
section 42(1) also stipulate that ‘the Commission may, on its own motion, investigate
a matter where in its view a broadcaster has breached the provisions of the Act,
Regulations or the Programme Code’.
4 Conclusions and recommendations
The 2010 Constitution in its article 34(3) provides for broadcasting regulation which
is ‘independent of control by government, political interests or commercial interests’.
The broadcasting regulator is the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
set up under the Kenya Communications Act of 1998, amended by the Kenya
Communications (Amendment) Act of 2008. Both these pieces of legislation do not
comply with the precepts of the new constitution, in particular with regard to the
appointment procedures for the board of directors.
An Independent Communications Commission of Kenya Bill (2010) seeks to
guarantee the CCK’s independence but still falls short in a number of respects. The
appointment process for commissioners is not suciently ‘open and transparent’
and could still be controlled by a political party – which is in breach of the Kenyan
constitution and clause VII of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’
Rights’ Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act and the Kenya Communications
(Broadcasting) Regulations (2009) issued by the minister for information and
communications recognise the three-tier-system of broadcasting: public, private and
community. Both documents state that frequencies available must be shared equitably
and in the public interest among the various tiers and that an equitable number of
frequencies or channels are to be reserved for community broadcasting. The current
practice of assigning frequencies does not seem to conform with these prescribed
Most of the provisions in these pieces of legislation follow best practices, but there
are some sections which raise questions:
• It is doubtful whether all existing community broadcasters, and religious
stations in particular, fulfill all conditions set by law, especially with regard
to the participation of the community in management and programming.
• The possibility for community broadcasters to secure financial sustainability
is limited by a narrow definition of advertising.
• The Act provides for a programme code but also allows for voluntary self-
regulation of the broadcasting industry by exempting those broadcasters that
are members of a body which enforces its own code. The regulations, on
the other hand, prescribe in detail standards for broadcasting content which
must be adhered to by all. A Broadcasting Content and Advisory Council
established by an amendment to the Communications Act tasked with the
administration of the programme code is controlled by state appointees.
• If a broadcaster is in breach of the Act or the Regulations, including the
prescribed standards, the organisation – simply and summarily – stands to
lose its licence and has to close shop. There is no requirement for the CCK
to issue a warning or ask for remedial steps to be taken before issuing the
ultimate penalty. In addition, breaches of the Act or the Regulations can be
punished with a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.
• While the Act and Regulations go into considerable detail in terms of licence
conditions and their enforcement, there is no reference to the duration of
licences for the various sectors of broadcasting services.
• The Regulations set strict limits for ownership and control of private
broadcasting services: no-one is to be entitled to more than one frequency
or channel for radio or television broadcasting in the same coverage area. If
indeed enforced, such a limitation is likely to endanger the economic viability
of existing media houses. The Regulations are silent, though, on cross-
ownership between print and broadcast media.
• Mention is made of the fact that requirements for local content may be
included in licence conditions, but the CCK is not enjoined to develop a
general local content policy which would specify quota applicable to the
various broadcasting sectors.
Regulatory autonomy and independence
• The new Independent Communications Commission of Kenya (ICCK) as
envisaged by the Independent Communications Commission of Kenya Bill
(2010) should be enabled to live up to its title: it must be a truly autonomous
and independent regulatory body which reports to Parliament and not to the
minister responsible for information.
• The Commission should be representative of Kenya’s diversity with regard to,
among others, profession, gender, ethnicity and faith.
• The appointment procedure for members of the Commission should be
open and transparent, involve the eective participation of civil society/non-
state actors, and should not be controlled by any particular political party.
The appointments body should invite the public through advertisements to
nominate candidates, and publish the full list of persons nominated as well
as the short-list of candidates to be interviewed in public.
• The Public Service Commission should not have a role in appointing
members of the ICCK.
• The security of tenure of members should be guaranteed to limit the
influence of political authorities on their decisions.
Media concentration
• The Commission should urgently embark on a thorough enquiry into media
concentration, including cross-media ownership, in Kenya. The enquiry
should take the form of public hearings including all stakeholders and
interested civil society groups/non-state actors. The policy to be drawn up
on the basis of this enquiry should promote eective competition while at
the same time recognising realities on the ground. Anti-monopoly measures
should be carefully crafted so as not to endanger the economic viability
of existing media houses nor serve to maintain the current monopolistic
ownership, but to create and encourage greater diversity of ownership.
Licensing issues
• The Commission should review its Frequency and Channel Plan to make
sure that frequencies are indeed shared equitably between the various sectors
of broadcasting. This plan must be made available to the general public. The
allocation of platforms for digital television must follow the same principle.
• The Commission should set realistic and reliable broadcast licensing periods
designed to allow for longer-term planning and encourage investors in the
broadcast industry who may be wary of committing themselves while facing
the risk of political interference in frequent renewals.
• The Commission should publish information on the availability of
broadcasting frequencies regularly. Applications for frequencies should
similarly be made public and any interested person be invited to comment.
• The Broadcasting Regulations must be reviewed. It is not up to the
responsible minister to make such detailed prescriptions for the sector.
Regulatory provisions like these should either be made by law or issued by
the Commission. A review of the Regulations needs to address specifically:
their detailed provisions on a programme code and professional
standards – these matters should be the responsibility of the
broadcast media themselves;
the limitation on revenue sources for community broadcasting
which endangers their financial sustainability.
• The Commission should – after extensive public consultations – draw up a
table of local content quota for the various sectors of broadcasting.
• The broadcasting industry should call for the amendment of provisions in
the Broadcasting Act establishing the Broadcasting Content and Advisory
Council to accommodate eective participation of civil society/non-state
actors with the objective to set up an independent body.
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation:
1 Legislation
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the largest broadcasting organisation in
the country and wholly owned by the state.
The KBC is governed by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act 1989 (as amended
on several occasions, the last time in 2009). The preamble of the Act states clearly that
the KBC is established
to assume the Government functions of producing and broadcasting programmes
or parts of programmes by sound or television.
In line with this definition of the broadcaster’s function the board of directors is
appointed by government or consists of government ocials as stipulated in section
4(1) of the Act:
There shall be a Board of Directors of the Corporation which shall consist of—
(a) a chairman of the Board appointed by the President;
(b) the managing director of the Corporation;
(c) the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for the time being responsible for
information and broadcasting;
(d) the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President;
(e) the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for the time being being responsible for
(f) not more than seven members appointed by the Minister, not being employees
of the Corporation, of whom not more than three shall be public officers and of
(i) at least one shall have specialization or experience in matters connected
with radiocommunication and radiocommunication apparatus;
(ii) at least one shall have specialization or experience in radio or television
programme production;
(iii) at least one shall have specialization or experience in the print media;
(iv) at least one shall have specialization or experience in financial management
and administration.
According to section 5(1) the managing director is also appointed by the minister for
information and communication and thus answerable to the minister rather than the
board. This undermines the board’s authority over the managing director and largely
ensures that the minister’s vision and wishes are implemented.
The role of government is further strengthened by the right of the minister under
section 53 to ‘make regulations for the better carrying into eect’ of the Act after
consultation with the board. Section 16(1) empowers the government to second ‘public
ocers’ to the KBC who ‘shall’ be employed by the corporation.
Notwithstanding its character, prescribed by law, as a government-controlled entity,
the KBC shall – according to section 8(1) of the Act:
(a) provide independent and impartial broadcasting services of information,
education and entertainment, in English and Kiswahili and in such other
languages as the Corporation may decide; …
(f) conduct the broadcasting services with impartial attention to the interests and
susceptibilities of the different communities in Kenya; …
(j) keep a fair balance in all respects in the allocation of broadcasting hours as
between different political viewpoints.
The Broadcasting Regulations 2009 in section 11(1) repeat sub-clauses (a) and (f)
almost word for word:
A Public Broadcaster [defined as the KBC] shall—
(a) provide independent and impartial broadcasting services of information,
education and entertainment in English and Kiswahili and such other languages
as the broadcaster may decide;
(b) conduct the broadcasting services impartially and consider to the interests and
susceptibilities of the different communities in Kenya.
According to the Act, the KBC’s board is supposed to formulate policies and give
strategic direction for the advancement of the Corporation. It is also charged with
overseeing financial management, approve the hiring of senior managers, sign o on
all projects, and give directions laying down the general standards of taste, impartiality
and accuracy of the content of all programmes, including advertisements.
In view of these tasks ‘the board needs to be knowledgeable, comprising people
with an education and with skills in areas indicated in the KBC Act section 4(1) in
order to steer KBC ahead and to greater heights’, says a former KBC insider, Hezekiel
Oira.85 He points out that the requirements specified in the Act for board members to
possess special skills have not always been followed: ‘KBC has even at some point had
board members who had no inkling of specific tasks of the broadcaster. Many are the
times when the board has had members who are retired civil servants and politicians
who did not make it to Parliament.’
Board member and director of information and public communications in the
ministry of information, Ezekiel Mutua, on the other hand, feels that every member
of the board is appointed on the basis of specific strengths which are of benefit to
the KBC.86 The board’s role, he adds, is to assist the KBC in policy formulation and
day-to-day management so that the broadcaster can achieve its mandate. Mutua calls
theirs a ‘hands-on’ board that is involved in the day-to-day activities of the Corporation.
Board members, he says, visit transmission stations and studios and also participate in
training in order to clearly understand media operations.
Such a hands-on approach and involvement in the day-to-day is bound to create
conflicts between board and management and goes against the principles of good
corporate governance. It is also in breach of section 11(1) of the KBC Act which clearly
states that ‘the control and executive management of the Corporation shall be vested
in the managing director’.
It is claimed that some board members have at times demanded the holding of
board meetings even when there was no specified agenda. The allegation is that board
meetings are seen as a source of income because the KBC pays an allowance of KES
20 000 (US$ 250) per sitting.
Section 12 of the first schedule of the Act attempts in its section 12(1) to protect the
Corporation against conflicts of interests by saying that if
a director is directly or indirectly interested in any contract, proposed contract,
or other matter and is present at a meeting of the Board at which the contract,
proposed contract or other matter is the subject of consideration, he shall, at the
85 Interview wit h Hezekiel Oira, at the time corporat ion secretary, 19 March 2008 (he left KBC i n late 2010).
86 Interview w ith Ezek iel Mutua, KBC board member and director of information, Nairobi, 25 May 2008.
meeting and as soon as practicable after the commencement thereof, disclose the
fact, and shall not take part in the consideration or discussion of, or vote on, any
question with respect to the contract or other matter, or be counted in the quorum
of the meeting during the consideration of the matter.
2 Profile of the KBC
The KBC’s radio and television signals cover the whole of the national territory. In the
case of TV, however, some low altitude areas still have very poor reception. Improving
quality would require multiple booster stations every few kilometres to fill the gaps.
For radio, the transmission network uses medium wave (MW) as well as frequency
modulation (FM) in major towns. The process of expansion is under way. MW plays a
major role for grassroots and countrywide reach – some 95 per cent of the geographical
coverage of the English Service and Idhaa (the Swahili service) is through MW.
The KBC currently broadcasts in 19 dierent languages, including those of
marginalised communities which would not ordinarily attract or make ‘economic
sense’ to commercial broadcasters. It is precisely for this reason that a public
broadcaster is important, says Dr Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the
ministry of information and communication: ‘The dynamics of entrepreneurship will
simply not apply and the government is undertaking to support KBC.’87
2.1 Radio
There are two national public services, each broadcasting for 19 hours a day:
• KBC Idhaa ya taifa88 (Swahili service): According to the KBC’s website the
station targets farmers, teachers, mechanics, carpenters and other skilled
workers. In terms of age brackets, listeners between 20 and 44 years old are
targeted as the primary group, while the secondary target group is 30–45 years
of age.89 The station oers news, news headlines, current aairs, business
news and sports, commercial programmes and lots of entertainment.
Formats vary from breakfast shows featuring African music, mid-morning
youth entertainment shows with light talk show elements, audience call-in
87 Inter view w ith Dr Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary i n the ministr y of infor mation and communic ation, 21
Februa ry 20 08.
88 Swahili term meaning national ser vice.
and text messaging segments, lunch-time music presentations, afternoon
salaams90 shows, agricultural programmes, programmes highlighting
traditional values and outside broadcasts. According to Idhaa head, Sophie
Kilei, the station is ‘issue oriented’ with ‘free style chat show programming
throughout the day’. The key idea is ‘to provide listeners with necessary
information without overdoing it’.91
• KBC English Service: The KBC gives a very specific list of its target audiences
for this service: ‘fully qualified professionals, managers, government ocers,
lecturers, secondary school teachers and large-scale farmers as well as middle
and junior managers, senior supervisors and clerks, qualified technicians and
nurses, primary school teachers and medium-sized farm managers’. Also
mentioned are mechanics, carpenters, part-time technicians, on-training
graduates and untrained teachers, junior clerks and owners of small farms.
The service primarily targets the age group of 18–35, with 35–49 year-
olds as the secondary group, and oers specialised public-responsibility
programming for young people (9–18). The English Service is described
as providing a ‘comprehensive range of programming in the categories
of information, education and music … [the] English Service refocused its
programming to be trendy and commercially viable’.92 Formats vary from
breakfast shows featuring infotainment and soul music, mid-morning shows
with African ‘golden’ music and light talk shows including audience call-ins
and text messaging, to midday and lunch-time shows oering ‘melodies
and instrumentals’, Kenyan pop music and discussions, afternoon shows
and easy listening sundowner classics. There are also late night love ballads,
news, talk shows, R&B, drama, features, outside broadcasts (OB), children
and youth variety shows, women’s programmes, programmes targeting
disabled listeners, environmental and legal programmes as well as special
programmes during national and international holidays and celebrations.
It should be noted that although these stations are supposed to be ‘public service’
broadcasters, they deliberately target not the entire population but specifically those
age groups which are seen as commercially viable. This orientation could be deemed
to be in violation of their public mandate.
90 Salaams is Swahili for g reetings.
91 Interview with Soph ie Kilei, head of Idhaa ya Taifa, Nairobi, 19 March 2008.
Three regional services broadcast in a total of 17 languages:
• Western Service: for Luo, Kisii, Kalenjin, Kuria and Teso speakers;
• Eastern Service: broadcasts in the Somali, Boran, Rendile, Burji and Turkana
• Central Service: oers programming in languages spoken in Kenya’s Eastern
Province and the Rift Valley.
The broadcasts range from one and a quarter hours to three and a half hours daily for
the dierent services which share the same studios.
The Corporation operates three commercial services:
• Metro FM: a 24-hour reggae station which – according to the KBC – has
‘become a big player on the entertainment scene’.93
• CORO FM: a Kikuyu language station, mainly serving Central Kenya, parts
of the Rift Valley, Ukambani, Masailand and other regions. It says on its
website: ‘Here at CORO FM, we provide a wide range of programmes that
cover every aspect of life so to enrich the life of listeners. … We do take time
to update our listeners on the daily occurrences. Our news is geared towards
satisfying the needs of all. From small business men, farmers, students and
holders of white colour [sic] jobs.’94
• Pwani FM: serves the coastal region and oers news and news updates at the
top of the hour as well as Taarab and Congolese music, pop music and local
bands. There are also late-night English language programmes featuring
blues music.
2.2 Television
• Channel One is the public service television station of the KBC and has
countrywide coverage. According to its Guiding Principles ‘the station
honours family values and provides wholesome entertainment. … The
station’s policy is guided by informing, educating and entertaining the
public.’ The KBC’s website also says: ‘The station strongly believes in
patriotism. Channel One transmits ‘live’ national holidays, government
events, parliamentary proceedings and international events, highlighting
93 Ibid.
94 Ibid.
Kenyans. It is also the home of sports.’95 Each week Channel One broadcasts
about three documentaries, 18 current aairs programmes, 30 religious
programmes, and about 65 entertainment programmes.
3 Organisational structures and staff
3.1 Structures
The KBC has a sta contingent of 890 members excluding artistes,96 marketing
freelancers and part-timers. Between 2005 and 2008, the Corporation reduced its
workforce drastically from 1 300 to the present number.97 Sta are spread across the
country with the majority based at Broadcasting House in Nairobi.
The internal organisational structure is headed by the board, followed by the
managing director who oversees a directorate made up of three sections: the legal, the
public relations and the audit sections.
The KBC has nine departments: human resources, finance and administration,
ict, units for audits and procurement, radio services, television services, news and
editorial, technical, and sales.
The KBC runs regional oces in the cities of Mombasa and Kisumu and local ones
in the towns of Mt. Kenya, Kericho, Nakuru, Embu, Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega.
Main oces like Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu are staed with journalists as well
as technical, advertising and administration sta. Smaller oces usually employ one
producer and a technician as well as some administration sta.
The news department is headed by the editor-in-chief who is in charge of both radio
and television news, current aairs programmes and documentaries. The newsroom
is separated into divisions for radio and television whose respective heads lead teams
of various line editors. Reporters and translators report to these line editors.
The editorial depart ments (news, radio, television) are guided by a senior management
committee chaired by the managing director. This committee determines editorial
policy on matters such as public morality, legal issues and government directives.
Logistics for the coverage of news events is the responsibility of the controller. S/he
runs the diary and oversees the production of programmes. Where national issues are
concerned, joint meetings with managers drawn from the editorial departments are
conducted and decisions made collectively.
95 Ibid.
96 A n art iste is a person who is not an employee of the C orporat ion, who is inv ited or eng aged to participate in the
production and broadca sting of program mes or par ts of programmes by sound or telev ision for the Corporat ion.
97 Intervie w with Hezekiel Oira, op.cit.
Henry Makhoha, the controller of KBC Radio, says KBC has a five-year Strategic
Plan (2007–2012) with guidelines that set out editorial and policy perspectives and
objectives for each department.98 The document has been signed by government.
‘Performance contracts have also been signed between the KBC board and the
Performance contracts were introduced by government in 2003 as a management
tool to create accountability to the public for targeted results. They focus on
performance and quality of service, involvement of service consumers, evaluation of
quality of service delivery, and ranking of institutions by excellence in performance.
Former corporation secretary Hezekiel Oira points out that the document refers
to KBC as a ‘profit-making organisation’ – ‘a misleading term, given that a public
broadcaster is meant to render services to the public’.100
According to Makhoha the KBC also sets targets for itself. Overall targets must
be achieved by the end of each financial year in June: ‘This is seen as a way of
making the broadcaster professional, and the management eective. There is proper
planning, work is outlined clearly, and reporting-back mechanisms are in place. The
management has also developed a tracking mechanism where monitoring is done on
a daily basis.’
The marketing department is in charge of advertising and sponsorships. From time
to time there is a conflict of interests between those of the department and the ‘public
service’ mandate of the broadcaster, for example if a client has already bought airtime
and a national/state function needs to be covered at the same time, leading to a loss of
income for the Corporation.
Overall, the structure of the KBC is fashioned along the lines of the civil service.
Ocers do not make decisions independently but have to have them approved by a
superior, a process that may involve a lot of bureaucratic red tape. According to Oira
‘some managers therefore lack confidence in implementing decisions’.
The KBC has in the past attempted to design a modern organogram that would
be responsive to change. The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) was contracted to
help with this reform eort but ended up again producing a civil service design. FKE
was contracted on the basis of the state’s procurement rules which stipulate that the
lowest bidder should be awarded a tender. ‘Unfortunately the lowest bidder might not
necessarily be the most qualified,’ says Oira.
98 The document wa s not avail able.
99 Interv iew wit h Henry Makhoha, controller of KBC Rad io, 6 March 2008.
100 Interview with Hezekiel Oira, op c it.
3.2 Staff
The entry requirement for newsroom and production sta is a diploma in any area
of mass communication. Preference is given to graduates of the Kenya Institute of
Mass Communication (KIMC) because it is aliated to the ministry of information
and communication and conducts formal training for the KBC.101 For those in
management, the minimum requirement is a bachelor or similar degree from a
recognised university.
The KBC Act in its section 8(2)(h) obliges the broadcaster ‘to do anything for
the purpose of advancing the skill of persons employed or to be employed by the
Corporation’. Pius Mutuku Mueke, a senior human resources ocer at the KBC, says
that the corporation’s in-house training courses are informed by the training needs of
the dierent departments.102
However, sta members who requested not to be named for fear of victimisation
talked of favouritism, especially when training involved financial gain such as per
diem allowances, and a lack of proper procedures for choosing the most appropriate
people for training. The training often did not focus on future market trends or needs,
which had resulted in the KBC lagging behind in terms of technology and current
broadcasting concepts. Some members of sta also felt that the broadcaster lacked
mentors and coaches.
The salaries for senior managers and heads of departments at the KBC range from
KES 75 935 to 147 335 (US$ 927 to 1800) plus a housing allowance of between KES 40
000 and 60 000 (US$ 500 to 740) per month. Middle and junior managers, reporters
and technicians earn between KES 24 815 and 90 335 (US$ 303 to 1103) plus a housing
allowance ranging from KES 20 000 to 35 000 (US$ 250 to 430). Junior and support
sta are paid between KES 8115 and 34 055 (US$ 99 to 416) together with a housing
allowance of KES 6 000 up to 16 000 (US$ 75 to 200). The managing director and
his/her deputy negotiate their terms of employment with the minister of information
and communication outside these set structures.
These low salaries result in a high sta turnover as other stations oer better
pay packages: ‘This [happens] especially after sta have undergone training which
KBC provides in conjunction with international organisations [such as] the BBC and
Deutsche Welle (DW).’ 103
Peter Aoga, an economist with the Kenya Civil Society Alliance, says: ‘It is clear
that sta are not left with any savings, which then can be interpreted in economic
101 Interview wit h Pius Mutu ku Mueke, 19 March 2008.
102 Ibid .
103 Ibid .
terms that they are not earning a living wage. A lot of them might be living in debt,
a situation that could result in employees who are unhappy with the earnings and
conditions of work, and therefore do not find the job exciting. Their output could also
be low.’104
Sta interviewed on the general working conditions of the KBC complained about
inadequate facilities such as computers and access to the internet, congestion in the
newsroom, and a lack of transparency in the provision of training opportunities and
sometimes also in relation to promotions. Many spoke about low morale among sta.
Some agreed that the KBC needs to rationalise further and reduce sta numbers.
Its large workforce allowed for duplication of duties. There was also a lack of
commitment on the part of some who ended up using the broadcaster’s facilities, for
example telephones, for their personal benefit. A leaner organisational structure, they
said, would improve the Corporation’s performance.
4 Conclusions and recommendations
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation – both by law and in practice – is a broadcaster
owned and controlled by the government and serving the interests of the government.
The KBC’s board of directors is appointed by government and includes government
The minister for information and communication appoints the managing director
and is entitled to make regulations on how the broadcaster is to carry out its work.
Government can also second public ocers to the KBC.
This type of governance goes against the objectives expressed in clause VI of the
in African Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which states, among
State and government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into public
service broadcasters, accountable to the public through the legislature rather than
the government, in accordance with the following principles:
• public broadcasters should be governed by a board which is protected against
interference, particularly of a political or economic nature;
• the editorial independence of public ser vice broadcasters should be guaranteed;
104 Peter Aoga, inter view, Nairobi, 23 March 2008.
Even more importantly, the present governance model – and the absence of editorial
independence in particular – clearly contravenes the country’s new constitution which
says in its article 34(4) that
All State-owned media shall—
(a) be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or
other communications;
(b) be impartial; and
(c) afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting
The KBC’s mandate – as formulated in the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act – is
‘to assume the Government functions of producing and broadcasting programmes or
parts of programmes by sound or television’. In line with this mandate, the KBC is
organised much like the civil service with its strict hierarchies and top-down lines of
command. Attempts to design a modern organisational structure for the broadcaster
have failed so far.
A performance contract between the Corporation and the government defines the
KBC as a profit-making organisation. This may explain why the two national radio
services (English and Swahili), according to their own PR material, deliberately target
not the entire population but those age groups which are seen as commercially viable. By
so doing they are failing to fulfil their public mandate. KBC’s television station Channel
One also defines itself – at least partly – as a commercially oriented broadcaster.
The salaries of KBC sta – the middle and lower levels in particular – are totally
inadequate and out of kilter with those in the wider broadcasting industry. In-house
training does not seem to focus on future broadcasting trends or needs, resulting in
the KBC lagging behind in skills development.
• A new Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Act must be passed as a
matter of urgency to bring the broadcaster in line with the new constitution
by transforming the present state broadcaster into a public broadcaster that
serves the public interest. The act must outline clear governing structures
designed to shield the broadcaster from political, commercial and other
partisan interference and undue influence brought to bear by other powerful
forces in society.
• The KBC should be governed by a board established and acting according to
the following principles:
Appointment procedures should be open, transparent and free
from political interference and allow the public to nominate
board members of their choice.
The board should be representative of Kenya’s diversity with
regard to, among others, profession, gender, ethnicity and faith
and include members with the necessary skills and competencies.
The appointment procedure for members of the board should
be open and transparent, involve the eective participation
of civil society/non-state actors, and should not be controlled
by any particular political party. The appointments body
should invite the public through advertisements to nominate
candidates, and publish the full list of persons nominated as
well as the short-list of candidates to be interviewed in public.
Persons who are oce bearers with the state or political parties
or have business interests in the media industry should not be
eligible for board membership.
The role of the board role should be clearly set out in law and
its main responsibility should be to ensure that the public
broadcaster is protected against undue political or commercial
influences and fulfils its mandate in the public interest.
The board should appoint the managing director and other
senior managers. The management should be directly
accountable to the board.
The board should not interfere in the day-to-day decision
making of the broadcaster especially in relation to broadcast
content and respect the principle of editorial independence.
• The new KBC Act should guarantee editorial independence for the KBC.
• The new KBC Act should design a modern organisational structure which
cuts out old-fashioned civil service hierarchies.
• Management and journalists at the KBC need training on the concept of
public broadcasting, focusing on:
principles and values of public broadcasting;
the role of journalists and management in a public broadcaster;
challenges facing public broadcasters in the era of
commercialisation and competition;
the role of public broadcasting in the digital era.
Funding of the Kenya Broadcasting
1 Main sources of funding
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act (1989, amended in 2009) says in its section
The Government may make grants to the Corporation as are necessary for the
purposes of the Corporation and for carrying this Act into effect.
Section 38, however, obliges the corporation to operate as a commercial enterprise
with prescribed annual returns:
It shall be the duty of the Corporation to conduct its business according to
commercial principles and to perform its functions in such a manner as to secure
that … its net operating income is not less than sufficient to secure an annual
return on the value of the net fixed assets in operation by the Corporation of such
percentage as the Minister may from time to time direct.
Sections 8(1)(h), 8(2)(i) and 8(2)(j) allow the KBC to :
(1)(h) provide facilities for commercial advertising and for the production of
commercial programmes at such fee or levy as the Corporation may determine;
(2)(i) accept for broadcasting, with or without charge, advertisements and
announcements which do not conflict with the general policy of the
(j) make available to broadcasting organizations the use of its sound and television
studios upon such terms as the Corporation may determine for the purpose of
preparing programmes for broadcasting …
The Broadcasting Regulations 2009 in section 11(2), however, modify these provisions
(without repealing them) by saying:
The public broadcasting service shall be supported by revenues from the exchequer,
grants, donations and its commercial services but shall not draw from advertising
and sponsorship.
This means that the KBC is not allowed to carry advertisements in or accept
sponsorships for programming on its public service stations such as the national
English and Swahili and the regional radio services as well as television Channel
One. These are now supposed to be funded mainly by the government and cross-
subsidisation from its commercial services.
In the 1990s, the government stopped funding for most of its parastatals including
the KBC. In the case of the state broadcaster the resulting scramble to make up for the
shortfall was exacerbated by the concurrent entry of private service providers into the
largely unregulated broadcasting environment. KBC’s shrinking market share due to
sti competition from commercial stations drastically reduced its advertising revenue
when it was more vital for its survival than ever. There were no policies to give the
national broadcaster any protection against commercial competition.
The ministry of information and communications has provided support for the
KBC on an ad hoc basis.105 Over the past few years it granted more than KES 400
million (US$ 4.9 million) for various purposes and projects. The bulk of the money
(KES 300 million), as directed by government, went into paying the Kenya Power and
Lighting Company for its services; KES 90 million were used to set up transmission
stations in Kibwezi and Makueni, and KES 40 million to purchase vehicles for the
coverage of elections in 2007.106 In the same year government funded the setting up
of transmission stations in various marginalised areas. For KBC management this
meant an extra burden being placed on the Corporation because sta needed to be
hired to operate these transmitters, and additional electricity bills and running costs
had to be paid for. Government also funded the rationalisation of sta that saw the
workforce reduced from 1 300 to 840.
105 Interview with Dr Bitange Ndemo, permanent sec retar y, minist ry of in format ion and communication, Nairobi, 21
Februa ry 20 08.
106 Hezekiel Oira, op.cit.
The KBC has been earning revenue by selling airtime through advertising, casual
announcements and greetings as well as renting out space on its masts for transmitters
of private broadcasters. Out of the total advertising spend on radio, television, print and
outdoor media of KES 31.4 billion (US$ 387 million) in 2009,107 the KBC’s share came
to around KES 800 million (US$ 9.9 million).
The KBC seems to be fi nding it di cult to source more income from advertisements.
Its single greatest challenge in this regard is that the public perceives the national
broadcaster and the government as two sides of the same coin. The station has been
trying to recover from this negative perception greatly reinforced when it played a
highly partisan role in the 2007 general election and post election period of 2008.
Some advertising agencies for example were not willing to give the KBC any business
for the better half of 2008, accusing it of biased coverage in the December 2007
elections and their aftermath.108
Further income is generated by joint ventures such as the one with Multichoice’s
Digital Satellite Television (DSTV), in which the KBC has a 40 per cent shareholding,
or by leasing out frequencies to private broadcasters such as Ghetto FM. Such
frequency arrangements, however, are no longer allowed under the Broadcasting
Regulations 2009: section 11(3) stipulates that the KBC ‘shall not lease or transfer
frequencies or channels assigned to it for use in public broadcasting’.
Technically, the KBC is insolvent. The Corporation’s approximate annual revenue is
KES 800 million (US$ 9.9 million) while annual operating expenditure stands at KES
1.2 billion (US$ 14.8 million)109 – which means a massive shortfall of KES 400 million
(US$ 4.9 million). ‘KBC is constantly operating on a deficit hence the snowballing
debts and a constant financial burden,’ according to then corporation secretary
Hezekiel Oira. ‘KBC needs a further KES 845 million (US$ 10.4 million) annually to
cater for its public service broadcasting responsibility.’
The Corporation’s debts are substantial: KES 20 billion110 (US$ 250 million) in
2009, according to the responsible ministry. For example, the KBC owes the Kenya
Power and Lighting Company over KES 500 million (US$ 6.2 million). As of May
2009, a massive KES 8.2 billion (US$ 101 million) were owed to the government of
Japan for the installation of medium wave (MW) transmission stations.111 This project
was part of an agreement concluded between the two governments 20 years earlier in
1989. By now, MW is an obsolete technology and changing from MW to FM is causing
107 ‘Ad spending g rows to Sh 32bn as economy picks up’, Business Daily, 26 October 20 10.
108 Interview w ith Henry Mak hoha, controller of KBC R adio, 6 Marc h 2008.
109 Ocial figures are not available. Figures provided in i nterv iew wit h Hezekie l Oira, K BC’s former corporation
secretary, Nairobi, 19 March 2008.
110 George Khaniri, assista nt minister, ministry of information and communicat ion, in a speech delivered at Kenya’s
Digital Launc h, 9 December 2009 .
111 Report on the Fi nancial Status of the KBC, in the National Assembly Ocia l Repor t, 21 May 2009, p. 18.
additional costs for the KBC. The KBC has urged the government to take over this
loan. The government has agreed to negotiate with its Japanese counterpart on how to
deal with the debt with a view to having it written o.
If section 11(2) of the Broadcasting Regulations (2009) is really enforced, the KBC
will to a large extent depend on grants from government. In the opinion of former
corporation secretary Oira this might have its advantages: the KBC – at least its public
broadcasting services – would be freed from the pressures of competition and the
resulting influence over programming. ‘KBC has to contend with funding challenges.
Advertisers come and ask for audience ratings. They want to see where they can get
more audiences to advertise their products or services. As a result, there has been a
proliferation of Mexican soaps showing on KBC, which may not have any cultural
value for Kenya. But that is what the advertisers want, and KBC needs the funds.’112
2 Spending
Research for this study was not able to establish any details on the budget such as
the amount of allocations to the various departments, the ratio of administrative and
actual programming costs, or any information in this regard contained in the strategic
plan or in financial reports. All these documents are not made available to the public
and are considered confidential.113
3 Conclusions and recommendations
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Declaration of Principles
on Freedom of Expression says in its clause VI that ‘public broadcasters should be
adequately funded in a manner that protects them from arbitrary interference with
their budgets’.
This is certainly not the case in Kenya.
The KBC Act obliges the Corporation to achieve annual returns on the value of its
assets according to the direction of the minister, thus turning the supposedly public
broadcaster into a state enterprise expected – going by the letter of the law – to generate
income for the state coers.
The KBC relies almost entirely on income from advertising and sponsorship. This
dependence opens it up to interference from commercial interests as it is torn between
112 Hezekiel Oira, op.cit.
113 Phone inter view with Hezek iel Oira, KBC’s former corporation secretar y, 7 July 2008.
its need for sucient funding and its mandate to serve the public. Support from the
government is granted on an ad hoc basis and is allocated mainly for technical projects
or paying o debts.
Funding is also obviously inadequate, given that the KBC is not able to pay its
running costs and is drowning in debt. The exact state of the Corporation’s financial
aairs and its real financial needs cannot be assessed because this kind of information
is being kept secret.
The Broadcasting Regulations 2009 (which have not yet taken eect) stipulate
that the KBC’s public broadcasting services be no longer funded by advertisements
and sponsorship but mainly by government grants and cross-subsidisation from its
commercial services. Experience in other countries has shown that such a model does
not generate sucient income, especially in smaller economies.
The basic precondition for any successful reform of funding is the passing and
implementation of a new KBC Act, which would transform the state into a credible
public broadcaster oering quality programming designed to meet diverse audience
• In view of the present financial status of the KBC it is recommended that:
the new board established by the new act commission a
thorough audit of the corporation’s financial status by an
independent accounting firm and make this audit public;
on the basis of a new programme policy, the organisational
structure of the KBC be revi