There is no logic in denying media public revenue

The decision by the government through the Ministry of ICT, to deny private electronic media government advertising is unfortunate.

It is an additional thorn in a faltering media sector already reeling from a similar decision affecting print media. It is only in January this year that the Ministry announced a decision that denies major dailies the rights to distribute government publication named myGov.

In both instances, the government advertising agency has chosen to ignore market share and audience numbers, thus raising questions on real intentions of the move. For the print media, the government gave the contract to the fourth-most-read paper, which expectedly put in lowest bid.

For the electronic media, GAA has chosen State Broadcaster KBC, which again does not feature among the most watched or listened to stations. As Kenyans, we all desire that public institutions be competitive in whatever sector they operate in, and KBC is no exception. However, to imagine this can only happen through preferential treatment in this manner is out of tune with reality.

KBC enjoys everything else that allows it to compete without any preferential treatment. It has access to the best technologies and have within its ranks, educated and experienced staff. Most media houses, in the private sector have actually consulted long-serving KBC staff to help set up their operations. We thus cannot say advertising revenue was the only thing lacking to put KBC where it belongs.

Advertisers follow numbers, and as long as the content and the brand attract a sizeable audience, then the money will follow. Let’s assume the government will save money in the process, as has been the main intention. What would it cost the government to save money and have important notices and communication not reach the target audience?

We are talking about job opportunities, tenders, notices for public participation, government achievements, etc. It is the right of every Kenyan to access this information. Top media houses must always feature when talking about publicising material meant for the public.

Again, it is not always the case that cutting costs leads to an improved economic space. The amount of money spent in a sector becomes its lifeline and keeps people at their jobs, who in turn keep other businesses up and running. It is from their little investments here and there that others also find employment. So, cutting costs by suffocating revenue for the media would not serve the purpose.

However, going by the two decisions on print media and electronic media from GAA, what is being implied is that the government has no use for private media. If there was a choice, they should not exist. But as I have said before, a free media remains the only hope for the nation when all other institutions become captive to the whims of the state. Those who do not find a need for it today will find a need for it tomorrow.

The writer is anchor Radio Maisha