Six months ago the Communications Authority of Kenya issued a grace period for the TV and Radio Stations to align their programming to the industry’s Programming Code. That grace period expired yesterday. Upon the expiry of the grace period, the Authority held a press conference to issue a statement reminding all TV and Radio Stations and their viewers and listeners respectively that starting July 1st 2016 the Authority will be monitoring the programmes broadcast by the stations to ensure that they adhere to the Programming Code.
The Programming Code was arrived at following legal requirements set forth by Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998, as amended, and the Kenya Information and Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations, 2009. The act and the regulations mandated the Authority to prescribe a Programme Code that sets the standards for the time and manner of programmes to be broadcast by licensees. As provided for in the ICT sector law, the Code was published in the Kenya Gazette in December 2015.
According to Communications Authority and as spelt out in the programming code, the overarching objective of the Code is to protect the interests of consumers, particularly children and minors from inappropriate content during the watershed period. In this regard, the Code requires radio and TV broadcasters to transmit programming that is appropriate for family audiences during the watershed period, which runs from 5:00a.m to 10:00p.m. In this regard, broadcasters are discouraged from airing content that depicts or contains scenes that are rated by the Kenya Film Classification Board as adult, or are of a language intended for adult audiences during the watershed period.
Other than strictly airing programmes in accordance to programme classification by Kenya Film Classification Board, the Programming Code also sets out the minimum amount of airtime to be devoted to local content. As outlined in the licence terms and conditions, TV broadcasters are expected to meet the 40% local content quota within the first year, and 60% within the fourth year upon commencement of operations. Adherence to this provision is expected to create jobs for our youth and nurture talent in the creative arts industry. A recent study found out that none of the TV Stations has met either the 40% or 60% quarter for local content.
The Code equally requires broadcasters to take specific steps to promote the understanding and enjoyment of programmes transmitted in their stations by persons with disability. In this regard, TV broadcasters are required to provide sign language interpretation for news programming, emergencies and events of national importance.
Other key provisions of the Code include protecting the rights to privacy and safeguarding intellectual property rights of content producers. It also facilitates access to balanced and unbiased news and other programming, which is fundamental to nurturing democratic culture and practice in the country.
In addition to the standard Programming Code developed by the Communications Authority, the ICT sector law allows a body of broadcasters to develop and enforce its own programming code subject to obtaining the requisite approval from the Authority. For such a code to be approved, the law stipulates that the body submitting the Code must be duly registered, and must show beyond any reasonable doubt that all its members subscribe and adhere to the Programming Code that has been approved by the Authority.
Before the programming code developed by the body of broadcasters is approved, the body should demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Authority how it would enforce its self-enforced Programming Code. A licensee who subscribes to a Programming Code prescribed by a body of broadcasters shall furnish the Authority with proof of membership, subscription and adherence to the Programming Code prescribed by the body. The Code so developed must also uphold the programming standards outlined in the Act and the broadcasting regulations.
In this regard, the Media Owners Association (MOA) submitted a Programming Code to Communications Authority for regulatory approval. Speaking on behalf of Communications Authority, CA Director General, Mr. Francis W. Wangusi, MBS said that the Authority has reviewed the proposed MOA’s code, and advised MOA on the areas to address before submitting a revised version for further consideration by the Authority.
Clarifying on the implementation of a programming code developed by a group of broadcasters, Mr. Wangusi explained that the law does not envisage a vacuum, as the Authority’s code shall be binding to all broadcasters. “It is important to underscore that the Authority’s Code shall remain a reference document to all the self-enforced codes that shall have received the requisite regulatory approval. Upon, receiving such approval, broadcasters will be expected to move with speed to create awareness on their respective Codes and Complaint Handling Procedures as outlined in the law and licence conditions”, Mr. Wangusi said.