Kenya bans state advertising in private media

Monday February 27 2017

Kenyans catch up on the news following US

Kenyans catch up on the news following US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in July 2015. The Kenyan government has banned state advertising, including tenders and job applications, in commercial media. PHOTO | FILE 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE

The Kenyan government has banned state advertising, including tenders and job applications, in commercial media, in a move, it says, will help it save money.

In an official memo from the Head of Civil Service, accounting officers have been warned that they would be forced to pay from their pockets any ads placed in private media.

All ministries, departments and agencies have been instructed to advertise through a new government-owned magazine, My.Gov.

The government is however circulating the magazine in two privately-owned newspapers -- TheStar and People Daily at a fee.

The People Daily is published by Mediamax Limited, a company associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Save money

In a memo stamped ‘secret’ to all state agencies, President Kenyatta’s chief of staff and head of civil service Joseph Kinyua argued that the government was trying to save money.

The government says spends about $20 million on advertising.

The memo is dated February 8, 2017, apparently the same day as a special Cabinet meeting that ordered the establishment of a government paper to “articulate” its agenda to the public.

“In line with the government’s desire to cut cost in the provision of services to the public and consequent to the Cabinet decision, there will be no need for MDA’s (ministries, departments and agencies) to use resources allocated to them to advertise their services and convey requests for services from the market,” he said in the memo that was copied to Attorney-General Githu Muigai.

The amount spent

“In this regard, each accounting officer shall ensure that any request for services by them shall be done through ‘MY.GOV’ publication. Any officer found violating this requirement will be liable to surcharge of the amount spent, besides other disciplinary action,” he warned.

The Cabinet, according to the memo, was not satisfied with the role being played by commercial newspapers and TV stations.

“During the special Cabinet meeting held on February 8, 2017, the Cabinet discussed and approved establishment of a wide circulation newspaper to be known as MY.GOV that will articulate the government agenda in a deeper and more accurate way for a better appreciation of government’s effort to improve the livelihood of the citizens,” the memo said.

Technological changes

Mr Kinyua said that the new free circulating magazine will, in addition to championing the government agenda and adverts, carry articles of government programmes and opportunities for the youth and vulnerable groups, which is allegedly not carried by commercial media.

The previously thriving media sector in Kenya is shrinking, severely hit, partly by technological changes and a government advertising embargo.

Government advertising is tightly controlled by the Government Advertising Agency and is generally determined by how government officials judge coverage.

About 30 per cent of media advertising revenue comes from the government.