BWIRE: Time to focus on high cost of content production

BWIRE: Time to focus on high cost of content production

By Victor Bwire

One of the issues coming out during this COVID-19 pandemic is that the cost of doing media business in Kenya is very high; especially in an environment where the protection of the rights of media and journalists is concerned.

The reduction in revenue and changing working conditions especially has forced journalists and media investors to allow the professionals to rethink how they can continue producing news and content outside a newsroom or confined employment, but determine how to continue being what they are.

Journalism is a creative art, and a number of leading names in the profession are self-employed or syndicated news and content producers. In addition, the high cost of production and dissemination of content and news has necessitated those in the media business to rethink about economies of scale; how do we for example do joint productions of public interest issues like live presidential addresses, elections debates, parliamentary proceedings, state events among others, and share the link or just use one printer for the newspapers or distribution vans for that matter.

The situation has allowed media and journalists to collectively think about what affects the industry holistically while keeping a tab on the unique individual challenges. The current situation and challenges calls for strong and close working collaborations within the industry especially by the various media associations and professional groups. How can the umbrella bodies in the sector for example, collectively push and or present industry issues in a more coordinated and nuanced manner than they have done in the past?

For example, how can the industry approach the government as private business to benefit from the various stimulus packages that other sectors and small and medium enterprises to re organize their business or assist creative content producers and freelancers access other grants and business opportunities to continue selling their intellectual properties?

Given the digital migration and related opportunities that have come with technology, how else can those starting online media channels, news/content distribution and stations remain safe and protect their works against exploiters?

In addition, the country has been pushing the issue of empowering and giving a livelihood to the youth through the creative economy, and the media a stakeholder in this venture. The Kenya youth are highly talent and government through various schemes has support or intended to support them to make a living from the talent and indeed many journalists, writers, broadcasters, performers and artistes from Kenya are making it on the global scene.

We just need a balance between for example for the various people using the media to showcase their talent and other creative content and the media investors. I will use music played on our broadcast stations to illustrate the need for this balance, and which must be pursued by the various umbrella organizations supporting the media.

While music is synonymous with radio programmes and a huge audience incentive for radio, the music producers also need an income from the music. The various collective Bargaining Associations for the performers and artists has been consistent in protecting the rights of its members and has ensured the broadcast stations pay for the music they use. But frankly, a number local media stations have been unable to pay these amounts and are in arrears. In some cases, matters have ended in courts over the use of copyrighted materials.

The Copyright Act of Kenya (2001), provides for three Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) within the music industry, which are individually licensed annually by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) under Section 46 (2) to represent different classes of rights namely: Composers, authors and music publishers of musical works – represented by Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK); Producers of sound recordings – represented by Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP); and Performers (singers, actors) – represented by Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK). MCSK operates on its own to issue licenses on behalf of authors and composers while KAMP and PRISK currently issue a joint license which covers the rights managed by their respective societies.

Section 30 (A) of the Copyright Act (Miscellaneous Amendment of 2012), provides that by virtue of directly engaging in the use of sound recordings and audio-visual works for broadcasting, broadcast stations are legally required to equitably remunerate the performer and producer through paying KAMP and PRISK, who have been, licensed by the Kenya Copyright Board to collect license fees and distribute royalties for both communication to the public and broadcast of sound recordings and audio-visual works played within the Republic of Kenya.

While media houses are willing to abide by the law, the pressure, given some of the amounts have been backdated to 2001 is huge and some do not have the capacity to pay.

If the law is going to be pushed too much to have media stations pay heavily for using content from local producers, especially music played on FM stations across the country. If huge charges are placed on the stations, they might opt to play foreign music big time like television stations have done, and in the long time, frustrate the growth of the industry.

Stations are expected to pay between Ksh 300,000 and 20,000 yearly to the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) and the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) for sound recordings, and a similar amount for audiovisual works, from public broadcasters and community broadcasters respectively. Thus public broadcasters are required to cough out Ksh 600,000 yearly, private 240,000 while community stations are expected to pay 40,000.

A sober collective approach to the copyright Act and related to the intellectual property laws to ensure we protect our content producers, creative and other news producers whose work is used without caring about the cost of investment.

In an environment where people rarely respect the issue of copyright and intellectual property rights beginning with our institutions of higher learning; see the photocopying and reproduction of books around universities and the online platforms where people are sharing e- newspapers without caring. This attracts fines. Sharing content and news that is copyrighted through social forums is illegal and denies income to the media.

Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya (

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