(NDIMA/IFEX) - The Nation Printers and Publishers Limited was recently
granted radio and television licences for Nairobi, and will start radio
broadcasts on 1 November 1998. Television broadcasts will commence on 1
December, Chief Executive Wilfred Kiboro announced on 20 June. He said that
the company is currently looking for a good site for the television mast in
order to give optimum picture quality to people in low-lying areas.
**Updates IFEX alert dated 14 April 1998**
"The UHF frequency, under which we shall be broadcasting, is affected
significantly by obstacles so we are looking for a place where we can mount
a high mast," Kiboro said.
During a recent board meeting, a budget of between Sh 200 to 250 million
(roughly USD 3-4 million) was approved for the project, Kiboro said.
Speaking during the annual general meeting of the Nation Staff Co-operative
Savings and Credit Society in Nairobi, Kiboro said the company had decided
to go ahead with broadcasts in Nairobi as per the licence recently granted
by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting while awaiting the outcome
of a court battle. The company has taken the decision to broadcast in
Nairobi in consideration of the fact that the case involving the East
African Television Network (EATN), a company acquired by African
Broadcasting Limited - a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nation group - and a
former director, might take some time to resolve (see Background, below).
Kiboro reiterated that the company was still determined to acquire a
national radio and television broadcasting licence. He said the company
took its time announcing the Nairobi licence because "we felt that there was
nothing to celebrate having waited for seven years."
Other firms that have been granted broadcast licences include Royal Media
Services, which recently signed an agreement to host Voice of America
programmes in Kenya, Stellavision, Cable Television Network, British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Universal Entertainment.
According to an alert issued by the International Press Institute, in
February 1998, the Nation Printers and Publishers Ltd., through the African
Broadcasting Limited, purchased a majority stake in EATN, a company holding
licences to broadcast on television and radio, from EATN director Sam
Shollei. In response to this, the government sought, through powerful third
parties, to deny that Shollei was the legal owner of EATN and thus entitled
to negotiate with the Nation group. Due to the dispute over the ownership of
EATN, Minister of Information Joe Nyagah withdrew the company's television
and radio licences, even before the High Court had an opportunity to hear
the case. It appeared that Kenyan authorities did not welcome the
possibility that the Nation media group, which pursues an independent
editorial policy and whose publications have previously exposed numerous
cases of government corruption, could gain a foothold in the broadcasting
sector. Though the group had previously tried to enter the field of
broadcasting, either on its own or through joint ventures, it had been
frustrated by the delaying tactics of the authorities. Despite the fact
that, over the past seven years, the Nation group's applications to the
Ministry of Information for broadcasting licences had been ignored, many
other licences - six in the last year alone - had been granted since 1991.
Kenya's airwaves remain tightly controlled by the government. The Kenyan
Broadcasting Corporation, the country's state broadcaster, is frequently
criticised for being unabashedly pro-government. Similarly, most of the
"private" television and radio stations, with the exception of the recently
launched BBC-FM relay station (which is limited to Nairobi), are linked
either directly or indirectly to the ruling party, the Kenyan African
National Union (KANU) (see IFEX alert).