Kenyan broadcasters have till June to comply with law on local content law

Kenyan broadcasters have slightly over five months to ensure that 40 per cent of their content is locally produced.

The Government insists that the new programming code is meant to ensure sanity in the sector and does not infringe on any rights and freedoms as alluded by some.

"The new laws are meant to protect children from programming content that has undesirable elements like nudity, strong language and violence especially during the watershed period which runs from 5am to 10pm," Francis Wangusi, director general of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) said.

Director General of Communications Authority of Kenya Francis Wangusi(left) flanked by Communication Authority of Kenya Peter Martin addressing the pres at communications Authority office on 11/1/16. (PHOTO: BEVERLYNE MUSILI/ STANDARD)

Speaking at the regulator's headquarters in Nairobi yesterday, Mr Wangusi denied claims that the regulator was overstepping its mandate -particularly by including some religious programming in the list of prohibited content.

"We are a broadcasting regulator and we are not attempting to define or regulate religion but there are some televangelists who are clearly exploiting the public and the code is addressing these individuals," the CA boss said.

The new broadcasting code has far-reaching implications and will have a big impact on the cost of doing business for stakeholders in the broadcasting industry including television stations, advertisers, film-makers among others.

Annual turnover

The regulations include mandatory inclusion of 40 per cent (9.6 hours) of local content failure to which the broadcaster risks a fine of between Sh500, 000 and 0.2 per cent of their gross annual turnover whichever is higher.

The Government has further excluded news from the definition of local content giving broadcasters another headache of filling the 40 per cent quota by June.

Advertisers will also be required to ensure that at east 40 per cent of commercials contain local scenes, are produced by local crew and are free from lewd, misleading or other undesirable content.

This is expected to promote the local film and broadcasting industry and limit the importation of foreign content in the country which has traditionally been blamed for the demise of the local film industry.

The Government has, however, come under heavy criticism from broadcasters who claim that their input to the law was not considered.

"We had explained to CA that some of the definitions in the code are too broad and risk victimising other legitimate televangelists and religious programming but the CA never responded to us," said Halton Lugalia of Hope FM.

"Our major concern is that the interpretation of this code is subject to misuse because definitions like 'sect', 'harass' or a 'religious group' for example could mean a wide range of things and leave loopholes for litigations," he added.

Wangusi revealed that the Government is working on a cyber protection bill in an attempt to safeguard minors from undesirable online content.

"We are looking to broaden the definition of the concept of cyber crime because some of the content that young people are exposed to are just as harmful," he explained.

"We have a zero draft that is ready and we are going to submit to stakeholders for consultations and public debate," he added.