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Kenyan TV biz in crisis

Broadcasters balk at high production costs

Kenyan broadcasters and producers gathered to fete TV’s stars at the second Kalasha Film and Television Awards in Nairobi last month.

But once the party was over, questions lingered as to where the TV industry goes from here.

“Yes, we have the Kalasha Awards, and it looks very nice, but what have we done?” asks Kezzy Omoni-Kimani, programs manager for private web NTV.

Industry execs say that the TV biz is facing a crisis as broadcasters balk at the ballooning costs of local productions. Though demand for local content remains high, many worry that the current business model is no longer sustainable.

According to Omoni-Kimani, the average Kenyan production cost between Ksh 300,000 and Ksh 500,000 ($3,700 to $6,200) for a half-hour show, compared with around $620 to license foreign content.

“Production costs have to be realistic,” she says. “I don’t understand how Uganda and Tanzania can produce programs at a quarter of the cost.”

Bob Nyanja, chairman of the Kenyan Film and Television Producers Assn., feels it’s the broadcasters themselves who are to blame. “The problem is that the local broadcasters have been used to making astronomical profits,” he says.

Execs agree that the government needs to take a more proactive role in developing the industry.

Nyanja says the removal of the value-added tax on film-related services was a positive development, but that it took more than a year for the government to implement the decision after it was proposed.

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