Ndemo criticises politicians over use of frequencies

Dr. Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, has hit out at politicians for not effectively utilising broadcasting frequencies, and called for creative investors to be given access to ineffectively utilised frequencies.

Ndemo, speaking at the ‘Future of Media and Advertising’ event in Mombasa, said that of the more than 100 frequencies issued, only around 10 were effectively used.

He laid the blame at the door of politicians, who have scrambled to obtain broadcast frequencies licenses ahead of the general election.

“Politicians are delaying potential investors by grabbing frequencies. They don’t utilise them properly but instead use them as campaign tool,” he said. He suggested that the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) would consider giving frequencies to investors in order to promote economic growth.

The CCK reported in June that an increasing number of politicians were looking to own their television and radio stations ahead of the forthcoming elections, with a large bulk of the 165 applications from politicians.

“A good number of the applications pending are from politicians, mostly driven by the upcoming the general election,” CCK director general Francis Wangusi said, though he did not name names and suggested that the CCK would be closely vetting all applicants to ensure licenses were not used for political motives.

“We want politicians to distance themselves from media houses and media houses to operate independent of politicians for fair coverage that can make every Kenya make a decision without influence,” said Wangusi. “If you are a politician and you own a media house, divorce yourself from it. Leave it to have indipendednt editorial policies.”

Yet Ndemo’s comments suggest he is displeased by the number of politicians owning and misusing frequency licenses, though neither he nor Wangusi in June have named any politicians in particular.

Stations owned by politicians include Radio Umoja, associated with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Radio Kaya, owned by Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere, and Pilipili FM, owned by Mvita MP Najib Balala.

Charity Ngilu, Defence Minister Yusuf Haji, Henry Kosgey, and Nassir Abdulswamad, son of the late Shariff Nassir, also own stations.

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