Waithaka Waihenya Managing Director, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the largest broadcaster in Kenya, and will play a key role in bringing the African country, which has a population of around 40 million people, into the digital age. Waithaka Waihenya, managing director, KBC, talks about the state of broadcasting there, and what KBC is doing to modernize its own infrastructure to meet broadcasting challenges going forward.
VIA SATELLITE: How is new broadcasting technology impacting your business? How are you going to modernize KBC going forward?
Waihenya: KBC is a very old institution and, in fact, it is a pioneer of broadcasting in this country like public broadcasters in many countries. What this often means is that broadcasters such as us are using very old technology, and using old techniques. One of the big challenges for us has been modernization, so we have been shedding that old technology to embrace new technology. For instance, implementing modern newsgathering facilities — this is a new thing for many public broadcasters. All of this is placing serious financial demands on us. Every year, we have to buy new equipment to keep up.
VIA SATELLITE: How many households in Kenya have TV?
Waihenya: Today, only 70 percent of the population can access TV services. The biggest challenge is supplying set-top boxes to Kenyan households. Initially, we thought that Kenyans would find it too expensive to buy set-top boxes and that would hamper the migration from analog to digital. But on closer inspection, every Kenyan seems to have a mobile phone. Those mobile phones are costing upwards of 5,000 Kenyan Shillings ($53.10). If we get set-top boxes, which are heavily subsidized and costing around 3,000 Kenyan Shillings ($31.90), many more Kenyans will be able to afford them. The question of affordability is not as big as we thought it would be, so we are hoping that when digital migration gets into full-flight, the issue of affording set-top boxes will not be there. We think the demand will be there, and that the uptake of new digital set-top boxes will be good.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the major challenges for KBC during the next 12 months?
Waihenya: We have a new Constitution in Kenya, and there will be specific demands placed on KBC. We are required to broadcast in every county in Kenya. This obviously means that we will have to invest much more in terms of infrastructure and we will have to change the way we do things in order to stay relevant. We are ready for it, but we are expecting it to be a challenging time for us as a broadcaster.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your plans in terms of producing more content in HD? When will you launch HD channels?
Waihenya: HD is a technology that we are not starting on yet. We are much more preoccupied with digital migration, so analog to digital. At the moment, we are struggling to reach our self-imposed deadline of August 2012 to go digital and we have concentrated a lot of energies on achieving this goal. After that, we can start thinking about HD technology because at the moment it is still relatively unknown in Kenya. Not many people know what HD means, so we need to take one thing at time and make sure that everyone understands what we are doing. We need to involve the public, and point out the benefits of such technology. I think we will start thinking about launching HD channels in Kenya in 2012.
VIA SATELLITE: Will you need more satellite capacity in the next year?
Waihenya: The demand for satellite mainly comes from outside broadcasting for us. One of our biggest partners is MultiChoice Africa, in which KBC owns a 40 percent stake. That is the vehicle we use for broadcasting via satellite. It started 15 years ago, and is still going strong. In the age of digital, we will also see how we can improve every facet of that operation.