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Ezra Chiloba says Communications Authority to repossess unused broadcast licences

By Nzau Musau | Dec 15th 2021 | 3 min read
By Nzau Musau | December 15th 2021

Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu and Communications Authority of Kenya Director-General Ezra Chiloba during a Digital Broadcasters breakfast meeting hosted by the authority. [Courtesy]

In his first formal engagement with broadcasters today, Communications Authority Director-General Ezra Chiloba promised a reformed regulatory framework that is relevant and responsive to the needs of the times.

At the same time, Chiloba said CA had firmed up its decision to repossess all unused broadcast licences and to redistribute them to new investors. Out of 425 licences issued in the first quarter of this year, many remained unutilised, he said.

He acknowledged diminishing advertising revenues, staff layoffs, digital disruption and the Covid pandemic hit of the last two years, saying the situation demanded resilience and innovation of both media players and their regulator.

“On our part, we recognise the fact that drastic disruption and convergence of media structures and systems, requires a regulatory framework that is relevant and responsive. It is for this reason that we have embarked on a regulatory reform journey,” Chiloba said.

He said this will entail the review of the regulatory legal instruments for the ICT sector, including for broadcasting.

The meeting was attended by Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu, Chief of Staff Laban-Cliff Onserio and a host of representatives of broadcasting stations.

They discussed the impact of the digital revolution on growth and revenues, the evolving role of CA as a regulator, and the upcoming elections.

Lyomu said the digital expansion has created fresh opportunities but also brought to the realm new challenges.

He said the digital revolution had placed demands on traditional media to innovate not only for survival but also for expansion into a new era.

Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu speaks during a Digital Broadcasters Breakfast meeting hosted by the Communications Authority of Kenya on December 15, 2021. [Courtesy, Standard]

In the last year, Standard Group has invested heavily in digital transformation.

 The transformation entails the convergence of operations, launch of new products and rebranding of existing ones, but more important change of mindsets.

Chiloba said that in keeping with the time, CA’s role had shifted from being a policeman to that of a facilitator.

He said the authority had no intention of standing in the way of progress in the industry.

He however said CA will not relent on absentee licence holders, describing the situation as a waste of resources.

“We have in the last few weeks we reviewed and identified those culpable. Accordingly, we have decided to revoke target licenses. This will allow us to re-plan and re-allocate these resources to investors who demonstrate commitment to establish and offer viable broadcasting services,” he said.

Chiloba talked of dynamic audience preferences, decentralised and individualised information sources and consumption patterns and the shifting social norms and values as a result of the expanding media space.

“These changes present both opportunities and challenges for decision-makers such as ourselves. There is no chance that this trend is slowing down any soon,” he warned.

On elections, Chiloba acknowledged the important role the media plays and pitched for adherence to professional standards and principles of objectivity, fairness and impartiality.

“We shall endeavour to foster an environment that enhances media freedom in line with the provisions of our Constitution. But you also have an obligation to continue operating within the law," he said.

He said CA will be firm on compliance and not hesitate to take action against any licensee violating the programming code and the license conditions.

The meeting was part of CA’s outreach towards the building of a more relevant, vibrant and responsive sector aligned to the realities of the times.

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