The MCK Taskforce on Betting on July 28th, 2021, vide letter ref. MCK.004.BT.INV.01.21 invited the Kenya Editors’ Guild to “to nominate representative to be a member of the said Taskforce to present your views on the issue of betting and gambling on media platforms.”

On July 30th, 2021, it was clarified that what was expected of the Guild was a submission of views and not nomination of a member. We, therefore, wish to state the following on the issue of betting and gambling on media platforms.

We note that the MCK established the taskforce pursuant to Section 6(d) of the Media Council of Kenya Act, that stipulates the function to “promote and enhance ethical and professional standards amongst journalists and media enterprises”. Its main objective is to review the regulation and promotion of gambling and betting on media platforms. The Guild holds strongly that an effective regulator is crucial to the success of any industry. Therefore  MCK has a responsibility to promote order, using co-regulatory principles, whenever the credibility and independence of the media comes at risk.

The review has been necessitated by a growing public concern about the manner in which the promotion of lotteries is being done, especially on radio. Though the invitation to the Guild does not highlight the specific public concern, there is a general acceptance that unregulated comes with significant social risks. Betting and gambling have stark implications for the future of a nation with a fragile population. The promotion of a gambling culture, whose frequency, timing and objective is left to the promoter may have far-reaching ramifications, not just to audiences, but also the platforms that are used to promote them.

That said, it must be acknowledged that lotteries are used around the world to do some good. The Kenya Charity Sweepstake was established using the same philosophy. The earnings were used to fund some charities and public initiatives. That notwithstanding, unregulated lotteries would undermine the culture of hard work, promote laziness, greed among the promoters and in the end result in the media capture, to the extent that the spaces required
for free expression, editorial independence, quality and ethical journalism may be lost or contaminated.

KEG was founded, and remains committed, to defending and promoting media freedom and Editorial Independence, quality and ethical journalism and providing a forum for sharing ideas and experiences that are critical in and for the media.

Be that as it may, it must also concern interested parties and indeed the general public that the media outlets currently face huge revenue pressures that threaten diversity significantly. The regulator’s intervention must therefore be tempered and balanced to ensure commercially-fed media have enough room to innovate and survive. The gambling entities contribute to the revenues that sustain the newsrooms, especially during the Covid-19
pandemic. This makes gambling and lotteries a high stakes affair that some media survive MEDIA AND GAMBLING- Submission to MCK Gambling Task Force (Aug 9, 2021) 2 on. Media spaces that KEG seeks to defend and expand would therefore require funding for sustainability.

Given the need to protect the public by balancing interests, KEG proposes that any initiative targeting gambling and lotteries need to adhere to a written law. We propose that such a law needs to set out a Standard Operational Mechanism that takes the following into consideration:

  1. Timing – Restrict lotteries to the watershed period to ensure children are protected.
  2. Mechanics – Media persons who participate in news gathering and production should not be involved in promoting gambling.
  3. Frequency – Number of mentions per hour be limited so as to stop lottery
  4. Limit the number of lotteries per media house.
  5. All forms of gambling, betting and lotteries be monitored and regulated under the Betting Control Board rather than directly run as broadcast channel promotions.
  6. The betting company promoting a campaign be clearly identified.
  7. The segments promoting lotteries be clearly signposted as advertising, distinct
    from editorial.

Such an intervention would bring in the balance between the interests of the promoters, media investors and audiences.

Issued in NAIROBI on AUGUST 9, 2021
For and on behalf of the Kenya Editors’ Guild

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