The Ministry of Information has told Parliament that it cannot control how Government advertising revenue is distributed among media houses.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry Dr Bitange Ndemo Tuesday told the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities that State agencies follow the procurement laws in awarding advertising tenders.
"It is unfortunate that those laws do not favour small media houses, which depend on adverting revenue to survive," Ndemo said when he appeared before the committee at Continental House, Nairobi.
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He admitted that there was serious discrimination in the distribution of advertising revenue especially from the Government with 80 per cent of the revenue going to five major media houses.
"But that is not our fault. There are other forces that dictate how advertisements are given out to media houses. We just follow the law," said Ndemo.
"There are four or five major advertising agencies that control that budget and for some reasons they dictate where the advertisements will be placed. They look at issues like viewership, readership and the number of listeners each radio station has," he added.
Ndemo revealed that out of the Sh80 billion advertising revenue in the country, the Government controls 35 per cent while the rest is in the hands of the private sector.
The committee headed by nominated MP Mohammed Affey (ODM-K) had summoned ministry officials after an association of small media companies complained that despite them being allocated licenses and paying taxes, they were being discriminated against when it came to allocation of advertising revenue.
Former Subukia MP Koigi wa Wamwere, who is the association’s chairman, told the committee the imbalances in allocation of advertising revenue, especially those from the State, need to be addressed.
"It is unfair for when one radio station earns Sh500 million in advertising revenue from the Government while another is closing down," he told members of the committee.
Koigi claimed that the Sh80 billion per annum revenue was being controlled largely by five media houses while 88 small media houses faced closure due to the imbalance.
The association wants the advertising revenue from the Government, and to a large extent that from the private sector, be distributed equally in accordance with Section 227 of the Constitution.
Koigi observed that the only Government institution that has so far been able to distribute equally advertising revenue was the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.
The committee directed the ministry to come up with urgent measures that would address the imbalance before they proposed amendments to the relevant laws.
Affey further directed Ndemo to compile a list of advertising agencies used by the State to advertise with view to them being summoned before the committee.
— Stories by Steve Mkawale and Peter Opiyo