“The film industry is the biggest industry waiting to happen in Kennya”. Well, I am not sure whether to agree or not but that statement was made by someone during the 4th annual Broadcast Film and Music Africa Conference (BFMA). BFMA organized by AITEC took place at KICC in Nairobi and was attended by who is who in the entertainment industry. I managed to be in most of the sessions and the following are some of the highlights:
From the Reality to Great Potential
The above opening statement would make a lot of sense when you look at the progress the industry as made in the last one decade. In the late 90, the industry was almost nonexistent. I remember we had some great music by local artists, some great comedies like vihoja mahamani but all that could not make what one would describe as an industry. On those early days, KBC used to be mama na baba but the liberalization of the Kenyan broadcast airwave changed all that. According to Kenya Film Board Film the revenue from the industry for Kenya in the 2009/00 financial year was Ksh.71 Billion that was 3.6% of the GDP. On the same period the industry employment stood at 4103 Kenyans, with Ksh.2.9 Billion in wages. Overall we did not get the latest figures especially on the revenue from the industry but my guess is, it is probably at 5 -6% of GDP and the Kenya Film Board think there is potential for it to rise to 14% of GDP if taken seriously. Yours truly agree with that 100%.
Major Promise to Support the Industry
At the event making some major promises was the current Cabinet Secretary for the Culture Mr. Hassan Wario. His ministry has committed to introduce fund to support the industry under the Youth Fund. OK, this makes sense but I hope the country has learned some lessons through the Youth Fund. As I write this post I scratch my head to try mention at least two successful business established through the youth Fund. I think there is one of those bus companies operating in Nairobi which was started by the support of the Youth Fund, and the country can be proud of that, but still…. One of my friend of on Facebook, the other day wondered loudly why the Youth Fund chairman is more prominent on the entertainment and gossip columns more than the entrepreneurship sections. Well, I had not thought about that but I hope he start being mentioned on the right side of the papers and websites. Having said that, I think the Fund to support the industry is long overdue and should be welcomed by all.
The 60:40 Rule- Local Content vs. The others
Initially the rule was meant to be such that Tv stations and Radios to air 80 Percent local content and 20 Percent whatever else they like but nobody even tried to enforce that. Actually the opposite remained as the reality up to now. Then the new bench mark was set to 60% for the local content and 40% for the others but again the country is struggling to maintain that. During the event the Cabinet Secretary for Culture Mr. Hassan Wario said that the Broadcasters must transmit 60% local content. That is well said but whether those words will make any difference as far as what tv stations and radio air is still remain to be seen. So why are the broadcasters not keen on local content? The answer to that is the cost factor. According to Russell Southwood , the CEO of Balancing Act, the Mexican and Philippines Soaps cost $500/hr (Ksh.42500). Local production cost $9000/hr (Ksh.765000). The logical thing for the Broadcasters to do there is to go for the cheaper option. But even if the Government were to strictly enforce the 60:40 rule, the Broadcasters would probably get a way around it. As you have realized, of late the Tv stations stretch the news time sometime more than usual. Someone suggested that they can easily fill the local content ratio with news and a little bit of talk shows, here and there.
A case for the local Content
The local content is King and all is not lost whatever way you look at it. A Research by Synovate indicated that Citizen Tv viewership rating has moved to 50% compared to 13% for the KTN and 13% for the NTV. It is important to note that KTN is the oldest independent TV station in Kenya. NTV also is much older than Citizen Tv but look at where they are. By the way, KBC don’t count here. The main reason for Citizen TV success is local content which Citizen TV is well known for. After the recent event where the rival k24 poached majority of the bigwig presenters from Citizen tv, everyone should appreciate the value of the local content. It is notable that K24 lost the ground in ratings despite those big names moving there. So Yes, content is everything
But there is a problem for the Local Content Producers
The main reason why everyone is campaigning for the local content is the thought that it will help the Kenyans doing the local content to gain from the demand especially from broadcasters. Unfortunately that has not happened so far despite the efforts for the likes of Citizens Tv. I was surprised to hear that most broadcasters ask the producers of the local content to pay the Broadcasters in order for their content to be aired instead of the other way round. So at the end it falls on the content producers to look for the sponsors or advertisers to help with the cost production. And that bring us to the reason why the country need to migrate to digital platform as soon as possible. With digital broadcasting the content producers will not rely on the broadcasters to get out their content as they do now. It will be like what internet has done to the print media where now everyone can put out their content without relying on the Media Houses. And put it to you that you all should know about blogging….
So when is the Digital Migration Going to Happen in Kenya?
The ITU world deadline for the digital migration is on June 2015. All Africa countries are trying hard to meet the deadline. Most of them like Kenya came up with earlier self-imposed deadline for the migration. Tanzania in particular followed their deadline for the migration and now are nicely on course to full migration before the ITU deadline. Kenya on the other hand has postponed her deadline twice and for now has not yet set the new one. Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK), the body which represents the consumers took the CCK to court towards the end last year and that what made the December deadline to be postponed. The court has asked COFEK and the CCK to sit down and come up with the right deadline. I hope they will do that as soon as possible.
Free to Air Channels vs. Pay TV
Kenya is looking forward to digital migration but it is unfortunate that the free to air stations have left the pay tv service providers to take the lead. The set top boxes being sold in Kenya are mostly from Startimes , Zuku and Gotv. CCK says they have a number of approved dealers for set top boxes for the free to air channels but most people seem not know about that. Get the list of approved dealers for the free to air set top boxes here.
Then there is also the issue of whether you can watch the free to air channels on the pay tv like dstv. Initially I thought there was a law passed to force the pay tv providers to air the free air channels even when the payment is not yet made by the consumer but I found out that it was just an agreement. Actually the Director of CCK Francis Wangusi was quoted on a number of sites as saying that subscribers of pay- TV services will be allowed to watch at least five free-to-air channels even when in default of monthly payments.
“The commission has put a mandate on the minimum number of free to air channels that the pay television must carry,” said Mr Wangusi. “The free to air channels providers are supposed to offer their content for free to pay TV stations since they are not allowed to resell the content to pay TV providers,
The future of the Community Radio Stations
Did you know that Community Radio stations are not allowed to air commercial ad? I mean, I find that strange, I don’t know how they are expected to survive. Well, it is known that most of them are being funded by NGOs, but if they can make money through ads, they should be allowed to do so. The tap sometime dries for NGOs too.
Easy for a Kenyan to Find Airwave in Rwanda than in Kenya
It is a shame that Sema Radio had to go to Rwanda to start their radio station. Yes, we know this would not be a problem after the digital migration but I think CCK should have managed the available spectrum better