Maybe now it is, a little bit…
Kenya’s national TV broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Television has rebranded for the second time in two decades. The new look station now features veteran anchor, Catherine Kasavuli, who was the Belle of TV as I was growing up in the 1990s, Anchor-turned-PR Mogul, Cynthia Nyamai and Former NTV Anchor, Tom Mboya. The unveiling of the new look was done complete with swanky new studios, a new logo that has received much critique from design circles, with many observing that it is effectively a STOP sign with a BBC logo knock-off.
This is KBC’s second rebrand in about 20 years. Its previous change was when it became KBC channel 1 in the early 2000s in a bit to wash away its Moi Era legacy of being a state propaganda tool and finally join the mainstream media in competition for eyeballs and advertising sponsorship. The fact of the matter is, KBC continued to be plagued by challenges of extreme conservatism (in the face of an aggressively progressive Kenya), little support from government and a general lack of innovation. It found itself unable to throw down the shackles of its past and build the loyalty of the increasingly youthful population. Just this year
Just this past November (2020), CS Joseph Mucheru announced that KBC was in dire straits. “The national broadcaster is technically insolvent. The debts are both recurrent and development,” Mucheru told the Senate Standing Committee on ICT. KBC was straddled with a loan of more than Kshs. 79 Billion owed to Japanese corporations, Japan Telecommunications Engineering Consultancy (JTEC) and Marubeni Corporation of Tokyo from 1989 and 1991 respectively.
In a nutshell, KBC’s woes have little to do with the brand. Rather, they have a lot to do with the rabid competition for the fickle attention of the very youthful viewers who have a lot of choice in what they get to look at and pay attention to – what with influencers doing well on online platforms Youtube, Instagram and Tiktok. Worse yet, TV viewership has seen a decline over the years as viewers move to the web for their entertainments and edutainment.
For Kenya’s sake, we need KBC to thrive. I hope the management of KBC is looking to tone down the conservatism and start to partner with some of the content producers making waves on the internet including Njugush (who’s revolutionalising the web-entertainment space in his own way), Abel Mutua, Jalang’o and Wabosha Maxine. In case they read this, I’ll just link here a recent list of the more popular Youtubers of our time. We can only hope that KBC finds its footing in unique, well produced shows – these cost money so I hope they get the support they need in the budget.