Kenya is a second hand (mitumba) economy. Kenyans live on second hand clothes, second hand cars, second hand computers (they call them Ex-UK) and second hand lives. When former President Moi allowed for the importation of second hand clothes in the 90s, Kenya’s cotton and leather industries died – literally. Uganda and Tanzania have also been affected forcing the newly formed East African Community to set 2019 as the deadline for the importation of second hand clothes, shoes, bags and cars.
As the East African Governments acknowledge that mitumba business is the biggest hindrance to industrial development in their respective countries, the Government seem unaware that the Entertainment Industry that is capable of providing direct jobs to over 2 million Kenyans, is also being killed by the mitumba lifestyle. This reality was unraveled by Communications Authority of Kenya in a report from a survey that targeted to find the rate at which Kenya’s media houses broadcast local content.
The first of its kind, the Topline Report on Local Content Analysis 2016 is a report by Globetrack International on behalf of Communications Authority that sought to find out just how often media houses broadcast local content. The survey on local content aired by FTA Channels was commissioned by CA and conducted between 22nd February and 22nd May 2016 following the enactment of KICA Act that requires that CA prescribe minimum quota for local content and develops a programming code for the broadcasters. Accordingly, the CA has published guidelines requiring broadcasters to achieve at least 40% local content quota within the first year of operations and attain a 60% quota in four years.
The findings on the survey indicate that KBC is leading in the broadcast of local content at 42% followed by KTN at 38%. Although many may have thought that Citizen TV is the leader in the broadcast of local content, the Station only airs 33% of local content, coming in fourth after K24 that airs 35% local content. NTV trails the established media houses by airing only 31% local content.
Summarising the findings, Globaltrack noted that Majority of the stations do not have variety in
programming and are inconsistent in programming. Further, the main content is music, news and talk shows that
address current issues which are being repeated over and again. On average, the established media houses air local content at the rate of 35% whereas the emerging stations (GBS, Inooro TV, Youth TV, KU TV, etc etc) air local content at the rate of 54%.
The question at this point is; why are the media houses majoring on International Content, News, Documentaries and Music? Is it because local TV real drama, thriller, action and adventure TV Series and/or movies are not entertaining enough? That is, is it because Kenyans do not appreciate Kenyan told visual stories that forces the media houses to abandon local content?
On the surface, the immediate answer to the question is a yes. For example, we have wondered why we Kenyans love Bongo and Nigerian hits more than we love our own music. Is it because Bongo is more melodious, more rhythmic? It doesn’t stop with the music. The Nigerian movies are crap, but the media houses keep on airing them with an excuse that they keep Kenyans glued to their screens.
Globaltrack International also wondered whether the media houses do not air the local content as required because Kenyans do not appreciate local content, but surprisingly they established that more than 77% of Kenyans love listening to Kenyan music and watching Kenyan produced movies and TV series. In a satisfaction Litcher scale measure, only 5% of Kenyans reported as being dissatisfied with local content. 18% are unaware of whether they were satisfied or not, 43% are fairly satisfied and 34% are very satisfied. Although majority are satisfied with the local content being aired, quality of local content in terms of storyline and production was cited as areas that needs remarkable improvement.
The the Globaltrack International concluded their report as follows:
Local Content Analysis
News, music/entertainment and sports are the dominant genres offered by the media in Kenya. There is need for the development of content in other genres in order to increase product choice and increase media consumption in the country like cultural content and children’s shows.
Affordability of Local Content
The cost of producing local shows is very high; for instance it may cost a station Ksh 60,000 for a full series of a Telenovella which media research data confirms that it is a high audience puller, whereas a local production costs Ksh 100,000 per show.
The affordability of local content, although mentioned as the most significant reason why media houses opt for Telenovella and Afrocinema, is nothing other than the mitumba economy. There is no way on earth a Telenovella soap opera can sell for shs 60,000 an entire season. To produce these shows, producers spend thousands of dollars per episode, and the only way the Telenovella producers can afford to sell to Kenyan media houses an entire series for Shs 60,000 is if they are doing so after recouping their investment elsewhere- meaning Kenyans are normally treated to outdated second hand mitumba Mexican soaps. There is no Kenyan media house that can afford to buy a fresh episode of a Telenovella that costs an average of $70,000 (Shs 7 million) an episode to produce.
Look at that, our media houses are arguing that to produce a local TV series is expensive as the cost is at the rate of Shs 100,000 an episode. What is Shs 100,000 an episode compared to Shs 7 million an episode? And that’s when we are talking about cheap Telenovella Mexican soaps. Jump over to Hollywood where a serious action packed TV Series like Lost or 24 cost an average of 3 to 5 million dollars an episode to produce; that is KShs 300 to 400 million an episode.
If anything therefore, to produce a TV series in Kenya is the cheapest worldwide, as an entire season (13 episodes) would cost producers only Shs 1.3 million.
Now that we agree that it is the mitumba nature of the Telenovella TV shows that drive the media houses to abandon uptake of local TV series, the best that Communications Authority can do to help the local Entertainment industry is to ban those second hand outdated content from our screens. The impact of mitumba TV shows on our entertainment industry is no different from the impact of the impact of mitumba clothes, shoes, bags, and toothpicks.