Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) operates a spate of television and radio channels, focused on education, information and entertainment. KBC’s flagship television station is Channel 1.

Media assets

Television: KBC Channel 1, Heritage TV, Y254

Radio: KBC Radio Taifa, KBC English Service; Commercially run: Coro FM, Pwani, Nosim, Minto, Kitwek, Mayienga, Mwatu, Mwago, Ingo, Iftiin

State Media Matrix Typology: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

KBC is a state-owned corporation established by the Act of parliament CAP 221 with a mission to provide broadcast services in English and Kiswahili and other languages to the Kenyan audience. The KBC chairman is appointed by the President and the members of the KBC Board of Directors are appointed by the minister for information and communication.

Source of funding and budget

KBC is funded through a combination of state financing and advertising revenues. The government subsidy is supposed to account for a small share of KBC’s total budget. However, the station has been in debt for years as it could not generate sufficient advertising revenue to cover its expenses. By 2019, KBC incurred debts worth KES 71bn (US$ 644m), which is a colossal amount for Kenyan standards. Thus, the government had to step in to financially back the KBC, funding directly or indirectly (by covering the corporation’s debts) the station. Most of the KBC’s outstanding debt is due to a loan from a Japanese lending agency. The loan, a total of around KES 71bn, was used to improve the station’s infrastructure.

There is no publicly available data about the size of the KBC’s budget. According to information gathered throughout the years from local experts and journalists, KBC operates with an average yearly budget of KES 1.2bn (US$ 10.8m).

KBC will need at least three years to return to profitability if the government gives the green light to a restructuring plan that includes financial bailouts from the state, according to a media report from June 2023. KBC has a pending bill worth KES 12bn (US$ 80m), according to data from the government.

KBC is also facing a liability from a lawsuit in the UK estimated at KES 40bn. The case began in 2009 when KBC scrapped a joint venture agreement with Amjam TV, a company owned by a Dubai-based businessman. An arbitration in the case is still ongoing.

Editorial independence

KBC lacks independence from government interference, and generally fails to offer impartial coverage mainly because of interference from government officials and politicians. The managing directors are sacked if the station doesn’t comply with the editorial rules or requirements from the government. Because of these repeated attacks and pressures, self-censorship is common among KBC editors and journalists.

Although the law that created KBC formally requires the broadcaster “to provide independent and impartial broadcasting services,” no domestic statute that establishes the editorial independence of the KBC has been identified.

No independent assessment or oversight mechanism to validate the broadcaster’s editorial independence has been identified either.

September 2023