Review by Phylis Luganda
Published February 16, 2008
Audio-visual commodities like television remains the primary source of information in most parts of the world hence it is said to belong to both the cultural and the economic spheres. In Kenya, regulation and programming of television has been a major challenge that has led to several debates about the adoption of broadcast quotas to promote exposure of local programmes by airing content that reflects what critics refer to as national identity. But the law has not yet expressed what the stakeholders expect to be defined in a regulation on ‘local content’ quotas for its way forward. PHYLIS LUGANDA writes.
Television in Kenya: Regulation and Programming, an 88-page book written by Pierre-Emmanuel Maubert and published by Transafrica Press with the support of the French Embassy to Kenya in 2006, attempts to explain the importance of adoption of quotas in regulation and programming of television in Kenya.
Mutahi Kagwe, the immediate former minister for information and communications, has written the foreword to the book in which he calls for ‘a more productive collaboration between the television stations and our independent local producers to expand significantly the local content in our programming’ as ‘Television plays an important role in disseminating information for the social and economic development of a nation as well as in the preservation and promotion of the richness and diversity of our national heritage.’
Presiding over the launch ceremony of Television in Kenya: Regulation and Programming, Elisabeth Barbier, the ambassador of France to Kenya, pledged to support Kenya should the need arise over the enactment and implementation of broadcast quotas.
The imposition of quotas for national productions, Barbier said, had engendered a hot debate in France with professionals arguing that would cause problems like lower quality productions and financing of local productions. But what resulted, Barbier added, was the opposite: “On the one hand, the competition between the TV networks, compelled to fulfil their quotas, has sharply increased the demand, and resulted in an improved quantity and quality of home-grown programmes”, and “On the other hand, the increase of the viewership penetration, due to local programmes more suited to local audience, has resulted in a rise of the advertisement incomes.”
Barbier added that the quotas had spawned a new generation of young artists in France in the cinema and music arena and that the quota policy is gaining momentum worldwide in order to safeguard cultural diversity.
Maubert argues that quotas should be imposed on broadcasters to promote Kenyan values, cultures and art besides uplifting the audiovisual media industry through quality programmes that can compete with foreign ones. Quotas will provide the audiovisual media practitioners with more work and hence assist them in acquiring more skills to be used in their own local programmes. This, he writes, will lead to an increase in Kenya’s economic growth by building a positive image of Kenya for investment and tourism purposes.
Though the quota regulation does not guarantee the promotion of local culture, it nevertheless would guarantee that broadcasters work in the interests of the public.
On the other hand, the quotas might cause problems mainly due to financial weaknesses as it requires a firm to incur extra costs to produce or buy ‘local content’ programmes rather than being paid to air them hence an audiovisual media fund is required to finance the quotas. This might also encourage piracy as broadcasters are likely to go for pirated movies which are cheaply available from street dealers to minimize the expenditure than going for the expensive quality movies. Therefore, revenues from artists and producers work and investment should be secured for finance of production to be productive.
The broadcasters might also face a problem if monitoring is not well implemented for relevant data and information to build their business plans since the quality of the quotas ‘local content’ will determine its market. However, there should be a policy to look into the matter of development of local productions to guarantee broadcasters quality programmes and the quota regulation be very clear in its targets.
If the factors above are taken into consideration and ‘local content’ is clearly defined and levels agreed on, it will be possible to introduce broadcast quotas by first experimenting with them before implementation to allow time for development of competent and interesting local programmes and establishment of adequate funding facilities.
Television in Kenya: Regulation and Programming is well printed on good quality paper with a map on the cover showing the location of Kenya enclosed in a television screen which gives the reader an idea of what the book is all about before even reading starting to read it.
However, television goes hand in hand with the radio hence the writer could have incorporated both of them as audio-visual media instead of dealing with regulation and programming of television only which the book does not give very detailed information. Consequently, having lots of local content from Kenya only will lower the quality of production by local producers since they are sure of their work being programmed or firms have to use their own staff who might not be so qualified in the field do the work so that they can cut down on the production cost.
Though produced mainly from seminars and workshops, the appearance and presentation of this booklet could have been enhanced further with graphs, pictures and other statistical illustrations that could have helped to reduce the monotony of grey pages.
Additional information by Ogova Ondego