Kenya Editors’ Guild has been seeking ways to bring together a coalition of partners to jointly chart the way forward for media survival. To achieve this, KEG convened a stakeholders meeting to discuss the sustainability of media during and post Covid-19. The virtual dialogue on Wednesday 26, August 2020, served as a platform for media stakeholders to interrogate the challenges facing the media industry and journalists in Kenya and develop joint approaches that will cushion journalists from the economic depression resulting from the pandemic.
The Guild’s President, Churchill Otieno noted that more than 300 journalists had lost their jobs so far this year, 141 of them over a two-month period (June- July 2020). He highlighted that the media is in strife with the failing business model and in urgent need for a professional reset and rebuild of public trust. “Our responsibility today,” he urged, “is to redefine the media landscape to enable a fresh sustainability model for our operations in Kenya, in service to citizens”
In attendance were friends of media including the US Embassy, Open Society Initiative in Eastern Africa and UNESCO representatives, among others. Eric Watnik, Counselor for Public Affairs, US Embassy reaffirmed that their support to KEG was in order to boost Kenya media to be unbiased, accurate and impartial. He emphasized that media sustainability and media Independence cannot be separated, hence their support of press freedom initiatives. He further stressed the importance of inclusivity in the media. “A sustainable media must not just represent, but also include and reflect all members of the society.”
The convention was convened jointly with representatives from Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Kenya correspondents Association (KCA), Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), Media Owners Association (MOA), Communications Authority, Media Council of Kenya (MCK). The deliberations by the stakeholders was followed by resolutions on a number of action plans to be undertaken by various actors.
Highlights of presentations by representatives of organisations and associations:
MCK The industry self-regulation lead
The CEO David Omwoyo, highlighted the need to address certain systemic challenges in the media industry in order to attain sustainability, uphold the media sector policy and legal framework to create an enabling environment for sustainability. He urged stakeholders to build on the Media diversity fund and foster conversations on advertising, new models and policies e.g. media audience circulation mechanisms and strengthening the MCK Complaints Commission.
In order to navigate challenges posed by the pandemic, CA proposed;100% waiver on annual operating fees for broadcasters, waiver on local content quota requirement and a grace period for broadcasters to remit regulatory fees.
The Chairman Eric Oduor, made suggestions including; establishing proper structures and standards that will attract and retain talent required to have a vibrant media, government to offer tax waivers e.g. on equipment and structured ways to approach relevant authorities when dealing with the challenges.
The Executive director, Marceline Nyambala stressed on the need to address corruption which, she said, has implication on sustainability. She called upon stakeholders to seek mitigation measures to what posed as threats to journalism and also establish flexible models that will enable media houses retain journalists without retrenchment. She also proposed the merging of media houses to share resources.
The Chairman, Mr Wachira Waruru acknowledged that media independence is prominent to media sustainability. Media owners were in plea for measures to ensure survival of the media Industry thus requested for suspension of license fees and a survival package. He highlighted the need to foster innovations that would unlock new revenue streams in the digital space.
Media sustainability requires trained and well remunerated man power. The Chairman, Wiliam Janak urged for the respect of labor rights and review of production and revenue models by media owners. He advocated for competitive payment rates for correspondents to reduce exploitation. Media houses to also leverage technology and monetize online content. He also pressed for the Media Sustainability Fund to be open and transparent and under the management of key stakeholders.
Digital Broadcasters Association
Joel Karanja, the chairman, stated that in order to realize media sustainability in the future media houses ought to explore partnerships in marketing, content creation and resources. Device different models of monetizing content including repackaging content in other languages to be consumed in other jurisdictions. Develop regulation policies on agencies, advocate for reduction costs on signal distribution and a Joint and unified approach of stakeholders.
Kenya Community Media Network
The chairman, Tom Mboya called for financial support for community media outlets during the pandemic. He suggested a model that would accommodate voluntary journalists and experts as they play a major role in addressing issues facing the communities.
The resolutions derived from the convention will be collated into a think paper to form the backbone of discussions during the main convention to be held soon.
By Wendy Mangale