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Kenyan media to seek fresh licenses

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – All broadcasters in Kenya are to apply for fresh licenses in the next three months as the government implements the Kenya Communications (amendment) Act of 2009.

According to the Act the new licenses to be granted by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) contain a programming code that the broadcasters will have to abide by.

CCK Director General Charles Njoroge told journalists on Wednesday that they would ensure the migration process was ‘painless’ and pledged give broadcasters adequate time to comply.

“Nobody will be penalised, we will not try to subject them to new conditions and we have done this with mobile operators when we are moving them from the old regime to the unified licensing and they will just apply so that we can bring them to the regulatory framework,” he added.

However, there will be guidelines such as timelines that broadcasters will have to comply with although their views will also be taken on board.

Already the CCK has developed the Programming Code which will outline what content that media houses can air or publish and at what time. A mechanism for handling complaints by the public against broadcasters is also ready and is currently under consideration by the Commission’s board.

This will be done with the help of the newly inaugurated Broadcasting Content Advisory Council which will be mandated to drive the process of enforcing the Programming Code by, for example, determining the watershed period of airing content of an adult nature or violence which in most countries is usually after midnight.

“For instance, it will ensure that there is certain language that is not acceptable especially when there are young children so that we are able to protect them without curtailing the freedom of the press,” Mr Njoroge said.

The code will be reviewed by the regulator at least once every two years and any firm that does not comply will risk having its license revoked.

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Information Minister Samuel Poghisio said the regulations are not punitive but are meant to inject ethical conduct in the local media industry.

“The essence of the broadcast regulations and laws is to enhance professionalism, ethics and integrity in the media sector and help maintain civil discourse in a civilised society,” he said.

These were crucial, he added, particularly at a time when the country was at the most crucial stages of the constitutional review process where hate speech and careless remarks risk inflaming the society.

The two spoke during the inauguration of the six-member Broadcasting Content Advisory Council which includes Mitch Odero, Kathleen Openda-Mvati, Alex Gakuru, Pastor Samuel Lumwe, Nyandoro Yabeshi and Frank Ojiambo.

Media Council of Kenya and the Media Owners Associations welcomed the new laws but urged the government to exercise caution when coming up with regulations that affect the sector to ensure that the country is still able to uphold the freedom of speech.

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