The government has devised modalities of bypassing the mainstream media in the delivery of communication to the public, a move that could deal a major blow to an already fragile industry.
Plans are already at an advanced stage to start the distribution of the government’s weekly MyGov publication through the Postal Corporation of Kenya as well as through digital platforms.
MyGov is a publication where all government agencies place adverts on, paying an advertising fee to the Government Advertising Agency (GAA), which then pays mainstream newspapers to carry the publication as an insert.
Government agencies are no longer allowed to place adverts in newspapers on their own but have to go through GAA. The state banned state agencies from directly buying space in print media in 2017 and instead directed them to advertise through MyGov in 2017, cutting newspaper revenues by a huge margin.
When making submissions on the budget for the 2023/24 financial year, National Assembly Information, Communication and Innovation Committee told the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) that distribution through Posta would enable government agencies monitor and evaluate impact of their adverts.
“The State Department for Broadcasting and Telecommunications is in the process of reviewing the distribution of MyGov from the current model of using daily newspapers to using Postal Corporation of Kenya in the distribution,” said the Budget and Appropriations Committee, reporting on the submissions by the Committee on ICT and Innovation in a report to Parliament on the budget for the next financial year.
“This is aimed at streamlining the modality to enhance value for money in government advertisements. This shall also serve to institute a monitoring and evaluation framework since in the current existing advertising strategy, it is difficult to establish the distribution and delivery of the issued advertisements.”
The Budget and Appropriation Committee recommended that GAA develops a new strategy on advertising by public entities and submit it to Parliament by end of this year. The strategy should look into how the state can take advantage of digital platforms when advertising.
“GAA in collaboration with the State Department on Broadcasting and Telecommunication develops and submits to National Assembly a revamped policy on modalities of carrying out public advertising that leverage on the existing digital space. The policy should aim at enhancing value for money in public advertisements.”
This is not the only hit that the local media industry will experience in this year’s budget. In the Finance Bill 2023, the National Treasury has proposed 15 per cent excise duty on fees charged for the advertisement of betting, gaming, and alcohol-related activities.
Media Owners Association in May told Budget and Appropriation Committee that the proposals if adopted would further weaken the sector that is already grappling with myriad challenges and warned that it could lead to massive layoffs and even closure of some of the companies.