Our attention has been drawn to an article in the Daily Nation of January 18 under the headline "State should consult with stakeholders to make rules that support media industry", which had inaccuracies regarding the recent publication of the Programme Code for Free to Air radio and TV broadcasting services by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
In his opinion piece, Dr Hannington Gaya, the chairman of the Media Owners Association (MOA), alleges that CA issued the programme code without first consulting stakeholders.
This allegation has no grain of truth as the authority subjected the code to public and stakeholders’ consultation from April 8 to May 7 last year.
During the consultation period, the authority received input and representations from 11 stakeholder groups, including the media owners.
The authority subsequently convened a stakeholders’ workshop on the programme code on July 9, at the Stanley Hotel, Nairobi, attended by 100 representatives from 79 organisations at which the analysis of submitted input was discussed in detail.
An additional 18 representations and inputs from stakeholders were submitted and deliberated on during the workshop, and thereafter, during one-on-one meetings convened by the CA.
The public and other stakeholders will also recall that NTV’s "Press Pass" programme of April 20, 2015 dedicated a show on the code, following the publication of the draft code, during which more inputs were ventilated and subsequently analysed alongside other submissions.
A report on the consultative process undertaken on the programme code is available on our corporate website. We are, therefore, dismayed by MOA’s dishonesty on this matter.
Indeed, as ICT stakeholders will also confirm, the authority usually subjects all its major regulatory decisions to a process of public and stakeholders consultation, in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
At the moment, six draft regulations have been published on the CA website for stakeholders’ comment, including the draft broadcasting regulations as reviewed by a task force set up by the ICT Cabinet secretary last year.
The code outlines the programming standards that radio and TV broadcasters have to observe, and constitutes one of the licence conditions that broadcasters have to adhere to.
It is primarily meant to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable and inappropriate programmes during the family viewing or listening hours, otherwise referred to as the watershed period (from 5am to 10pm).
In accordance with Section 46H of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, the authority is required by law to develop and enforce the programme code for free to air broadcasting services.
Contrary to Dr Gaya’s claims, the code does not in any way interfere with free operations of media enterprises.
The media, like all other enterprises in the country, are expected to operate within the confines of the law.
In any case, the Supreme Court of Kenya, in its ruling on the digital migration case, clearly noted that it would not be unfeasible for broadcast licences issued by the authority to come with some content or programming standards.
Indeed, the broadcast media are regulated globally through the programme or broadcasting code. The publication of the code is, therefore, not unique to Kenya.
Section 46H of the ICT sector law also allows a body of broadcasters to develop their own programme code and an enforcement mechanism that its members can subscribe to and abide by, and forward the same to the authority for approval.
Therefore, local broadcasters who wish to be governed by their own code are at liberty to do so, as long as CA endorses the code and the attendant enforcement mechanism.
On the review of the broadcasting regulations, the authority wishes to remind the MOA that rule-making powers in the sector reside in the Ministry of ICT.
In respect to local content, it is important for MOA to note that the authority uses the parameters outlined in the broadcasting regulations in enforcing compliance.
Local content rules feature in all jurisdictions with a view to ensuring that broadcasting services support and promote opportunities for local film producers in order to nurture the creative arts industry and create jobs.
The authority remains open to engage broadcasters and other stakeholders with a view to ensuring the local broadcasting sector works efficiently and creates value in the greater interest of the public, and licensees.
Mr Wangusi is the director-general of the Communications Authority of Kenya.