Kenya: KBC claims monopoly on live parliamentary coverage but looks set to lose it

Regulation & Policy

Barely a week after Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was granted permission to test-run live debates in Parliament, it has now barred other media houses from re-broadcasting its radio or television signal, terming it a breach of law. In effect, KBC is claiming a monopoly over its coverage of parliament.

In a statement sent to various newsrooms Tuesday in the country, the state-owned broadcaster said use of its signals, whether in part or as a whole, was unlawful and a breach of the copyright law.

House Speaker Kenneth Marende had announced that the Communications Commission of Kenya had given Parliament a frequency to start live coverage of proceedings as soon as it was ready to do so. But he said the work would not start immediately because KBC was still carrying out trial runs.

Parliamentary proceedings in Kenya are covered verbatim by the Hansard team of reporters. Media houses had earlier been restricted to covering proceedings live only during the swearing-in of new members after an election; the State opening by the Head of State; and during the reading of the Budget.

But this will change when live coverage starts in all media stations in the country, as part of ambitious reforms the Speaker announced in his acceptance speech in January this year.

A technical committee that has been working on the modalities for the past six months will soon conclude its work, allowing all media houses independent signals. At the moment, any media house that intends to transmit the debates must consult KBC.

Marende said the radio trial runs will end in August while the TV one will go on until February next year. KBC was allowed to air the debates live since last Tuesday last week.

The Nation (Nairobi) 2 July 2008