Dr Fred Matiang’i speech during the AMWIK Conf., 28th April 2014

Republic of KenyaREPUBLIC OF KENYA 
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY
 
Speech by Dr. Fred Matiangi, PhD
Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology
During the AMWIK Conference on ‘Digital Broadcasting Migration and Marginalized Communities’
28th April 2014
Venue: AACC/ Desmond Tutu Conference Center, on Waiyaki Way


The Chairperson of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Mrs. Pamela Mburia,
Programme Officer, Advancing Public Service Media, Ford Foundation Office for Eastern Africa, Rosemary Okello,
The Representatives from the Communications Commission of Kenya,
Representatives from women and community groups from Marsabit, Kilifi and Tana River Counties,
Members of the Association of Media Women in Kenya,

 

Ladies and gentlemen.

Allow me to start by congratulating AMWIK and its partner, the Ford Foundation Eastern Africa Office, for putting together this platform, to discuss the opportunities and challenges of marginalized communities in the purview of digital broadcasting migration. I am informed that this forum aims not only to bring marginalized groups in the center of the global discussions of digital broadcasting migration, but also to collectively come up with effective strategies of streamlining access to information to marginalized groups in view of the global changes.

The new Constitution of Kenya, promulgated in August 2010, is a major positive development ensuring the free flow of information as it provides for several freedoms. Article 33 provides that every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas; freedom of artistic creativity; and academic freedom and freedom of scientific research; Article 34 guarantees the independence of electronic, print and all other types of media; while Article 35 gives every citizen the right of access to information held by the State or other persons and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom.

As we migrate from analogue to digital Television broadcasting, let me speak about the opportunities that will be available for women and other marginalized groups. First, the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting will provide more TV channels as one analogue channel will create about 20 digital ones. This, subsequently, means that we are going to need more content to fill up these increased channels and we would like to encourage women and other marginalised groups to place themselves in a position where they can develop content that tells their own stories using the now available TV channels.

Since local content is core to the strategy for migration to digital TV, I would like to urge AMWIK and similar organisations to put in place mechanisms that build the capacity of women and other marginalized communities to take charge of their own destiny by developing local content that can be aired on the digital platform.

I say this because today, most of our television screens are full of foreign content and it is important that with the advent of digital broadcasting with capability to offer tens of channels to viewers, there is a need for investment on creation of content that will address the needs of the marginalized members of our society.

Statistic show that some 74 percent of Kenyans have access to radio stations, most of them FM stations which as you know are owned by individuals and various organizations including the government (through KBC). Television is the second most popular medium, accessed by about 28 percent of the population and a sizeable number of people in Kenya read newspapers. Indications are that although slightly over 3 million Kenyans read a newspaper every day, many of these do not buy their own copies. One of the reasons why newspaper readership is low is the high cost of the daily papers.  Most people can hardly afford to buy a newspaper. Therefore, digital TV offers an opportunity for us to disseminate information to the marginalised in our country.

From today let us take a bold step towards enabling grassroots women, youth and communities to understand the impact of migration process. As we deliberate on this, let us remember that the process began with the Regional Radio Conference of 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland, where stakeholders across the world agreed to have their countries migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting. Kenya, as a signatory to this process, has an obligation to ensure that the move from analogue to digital television is completed by 17th June 2015. That is why the government has not spared any effort to ensure that we comply with the worldwide analogue switch off deadline.

At the Ministry of ICT, it is our view that migration to digital TV broadcasting will reduce concentration and consolidation of media ownership in our country and increase pluralism and diversity in TV viewership. This is not to say there has not been growth in the media, only that we would like to see significant improvement in the quality of news (for example, investigative journalism and more serious research) in the media. We would also to see media houses with online presence to more innovative and not merely replicate what is offered in either their broadcast or print media platforms. In short, even though there are shifts in the diversity of the sources of news, and greater choices than before, the content remains largely the same as that available in traditional media.

Although the migration to digital TV has been beset by many challenges, the opportunities remain vast and we look forward to these challenges being resolved and opportunities seized so that we can move forward and migrate within the set deadline so that we can reap the benefits that digital TV brings.

Some of the advantages migration to digital TV include:

  • Free up some spectrum resources for cellular telephony expansion and for wireless broadband
  • Existing analogue technologies for TV transmission are likely to become obsolete with time
  • Delaying migration to digital TV would deprive Kenyan audiences of extra TV offerings for them to choose from and therefore curtail diversity and pluralism.

As the transition to digital TV happens, we are aware of the fact that there are groups of people who are marginalized in access to information. Marginalization in its many facets means that groups that are not economically empowered like women and youth may find themselves challenged by the purchasing power of information and communication technologies and equipment. Other marginalizing elements will include gender and unequal development. In Kenya, traditionally the Northern parts of Kenya have been marginalized in many ways than one, a factor that has had a spiral effect in many aspects of development, including information and communication.

Therefore, as we approach the deadline to the realization of the MDGs, it is imperative to note that access to quality information is key towards achieving all the eight MDGs. My Ministry will spare no efforts to ensure that these marginalized areas are able to receive digital TV signals with relevant content.

I am happy to inform you that my Ministry, through SIGNET and KBC, is putting in place plans to rollout digital broadcasting infrastructure in many of the marginalized counties. This will make it more cost effective for communities in these areas to establish broadcasting services which can ride on this infrastructure.

Closely linked to this is the need for AMWIK to also mentor young women to be able to produce content for those (new) digital channels. Skills development for young women is also the best place to start women empowerment. There is a collective responsibility to ensure that young women understand available careers in the ICT environment. In this vein AMWIK should encourage young girls and women to diversify and pursue careers in IT including broadcast engineering and content development.

I am aware that the ICT environment has barriers that promote gender discrimination, and we are doing everything possible through my Ministry to create an enabling environment where women and girls participate in the ICT industry on an equal basis with others, and harness the benefits that are brought about by ICTs. I wish to reiterate the government’s commitment in public private partnerships. To this end, I am open to further discussions with AMWIK on possible collaborations to mainstream and enhance the participation of women and girls in the ICT sector.

At a different level, we would like to encourage organizations such as AMWIK and other community organizations apply for channels on the digital platform so that they can provide the relevant content to their stakeholders. I am talking about encouraging women to own their own channels dedicated to issues that are important to women, that have always been neglected by the media. Only then can women own radio and TV stations and be in a position to set the national agenda.  I encourage AMWIK to advance its communication strategies and explore the opportunities in commercial community media stations (both radio and television).

Finally, I would like to commend the contribution made by the non-state actors in development. In this regard, I am happy to note that AMWIK and its partners have endeavored to provide information to traditionally marginalized groups through various channels. Of particular mention is the innovative use of radio listening clubs to provide information and education to women and community groups in marginalized areas. As the digital revolution sweeps across the globe, it will be imperative for AMWIK and its partners to strategically place themselves in a position that will harness the potential of digital technologies to grow, develop, and empower, not just AMWIK, but the marginalized groups as well.

With those remarks, I wish you fruitful deliberations.