The Bills were formally submitted to the House before it went on recess and stand committed to the Departmental Committee on Energy, information and Communication for consideration and thereafter make report to the House.
Members of the public are expected forward their representations on the Bill that seeks to amend the provisions in the Media Act of 1998 to the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly before August 26.
Among the changes proposed in the Media Council Bill is the establishment of the Media Council’s Complaints Commission to impose monetary fines, among other penalties, on media houses or journalists brought before it.
Media houses found guilty will be fined not more than Sh500,000 while the journalist could part with Sh100,000. This is besides the commission having powers to order an apology, a retraction of an offensive story or a general “reprimand” of the guilty party.
Industry players such as the Media Owners Association have raised concerns in the way in which the members are selected. Although the selection panel would be drawn from media owners, journalism associations, editors, journalism schools as well as several professional bodies, the Cabinet Secretary would have the final say on who chairs or even sits on the council.
Currently, the Media Council consists of 13 members nominated by various stakeholders in the media, communications and law sectors.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill 2013 seeks to replace the Communications Commission of Kenya with a new regulator that is free of government, political or commercial interest while exercising its powers.
Section 3 of the Bill, Part 2, of the principal Act, is amended by deleting the words “Communication Commission of Kenya” wherever they appear and substituting them for the words “Kenya Communications Regulatory Authority (KCRA)”.
Questions have however arisen over the independence of the authority given the ICT Secretary still reserves the right to issue policy guidelines to the authority and he shall be responsible for the short listing of seven members of the Board with the President remaining as the appointing authority.
The Board shall further have three Principal Secretaries including that of Finance, Security and ICT.
Already, media practitioners have raised concerns on the assumption of the power to administer broadcast content, formulate media standards and regulate compliance.