There has been a concerted push for local content by the Kenyan government, through the I.C.T. Board, for a couple of years. They have even offered grants to companies to further the local content cause. You would imagine that by now we’d already have 40% of the content on our TVs locally made. This reality has been difficult to realize despite the goodwill of the government and presence of talented Kenyan creatives.

Scroll through the local TV stations at any time during the day and you will find them flooded with foreign content especially in the form of Nigerian movies and Mexican soaps. From a business perspective,makes some sense. It’s cheaper to buy this foreign content than to commission a local production. However, this is myopic as it will not lead to a sustainable TV and film industry. There have been cases where local producers have been offered similar amounts of money to produce their productions by broadcasters, that these broadcasters use to buy foreign content. This makes no sense, as in the former the content is already made and I highly doubt they had Kenya in mind when they were in production, and the latter is yet to be produced and hence requires adequate funds. There have also been claims made by filmmakers that broadcasters are not interested in high quality productions or certain story lines as they feel it will be ‘too much’ for Kenyans. Are we referring to the same Kenyans who watch ‘more advanced’ foreign content and understand it just fine?

Concerts are a great way to market an artist’s music and an even greater way to market a brand by attaching it to the artist. Local brands especially in the alcohol sector, have been visible at various concerts. This is all well and good, until you scrutinize the kind of artists being supported by these brands. They are either washed up foreign artists or unknown artists or even worse, one hit wonders especially of the reggae genre. The number of talented Kenyan musicians is phenomenal. You just need to attend the many open mic sessions and concerts in and around the city to get a taste. Why then would local brands feel the need to attach themselves at great cost to foreign artists that are either not that well known or whose sell by date is long passed? Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on an equally talented local artist to push a local brand?

Why do we preach local content but consume foreign content? It seems we do not appreciate our own art. If we did we would be asking for more of it. Kenya has a wealth of stories to tell. The day we realize the goldmine we’re sitting on, the discovery of oil will be second rate. Our films, TV shows, music and art can become a huge contributor to the growth of the economy. It will be of course expensive in the beginning, but if we focus on the long term gains, it’ll be well worth it. You know a country is prospering when its artists prosper. Buy Kenyan, support Kenyan.

First published in the Nairobian under the headline “No need of foreign taste to “spice” our local films” ; Issue No. 11 – May 10-16 2013

4 thoughts on “Why do we preach local content but consume foreign content?

  1. Hey this is an insightful article. Allow me to share my sentiments on the same.
    1.I believe local content is poorly packaged be it music or film productions.
    2. The quality of actors used in these productions are mediocre. The actors appear to have a difficult time transitioning from theater to television. On the other hand, a friend of mine who attends a lot of these auditions for local productions points out how its a reward scheme for the producers friends to make some money and you see it (mediocre acting)
    3. Bogus story lines-I agree that there tends to be a bias towards certain story lines. As a consumer of this entertainment more often than not, I simply flip through the stations and retort to the comfort of my laptop I cannot stand these Nigerian stuff its painful.
    In closing let me say this much, I love Jacob’s Cross-its my standard of what a local production should emulate. Beyond that, i guess I will be cozying up to my computer screen watching some more foreign content unapologetically.

  2. I second Sidney on this. We should not be looking for ‘local shows or content’ What we should strive for at all times is, ‘Good quality shows/music’ that just happen to be locally produced. With that in mind, we should advocate for shows that have captivating story lines that grab the attention of the audience, solid plotting, brilliant characters played by just as brilliant actors. And even if their sets don’t look as high tech due to budget constraints, we’ll forgive them ‘coz we’re too distracted by the story and the characters to care.

    So for now, I’ll stick to watching Jacob’s cross and breaking bad (my current TV favorite). What drew me to them was not that they are South African or American but the fact that they are brilliantly woven stories first and foremost. Jacob’s cross Bola’s still gives me the chills. As for breaking bad, each episode is a jaw dropping peek into an individual’s downward spiral into ‘badness’

    So give us local shows that have beautifully woven stories and we’ll happily eat them up and ask for second helpings…

  3. Quality. I agree with pretty much what Sidney says. Worse, many production houses still believe they are good at what they do but won’t listen to reason when they are told that it isn’t good enough. Also, production budgets a insanely low, and even worse, mediocre actors deliver D-Rate performances expecting to earn A-Rate salaries, so many budgets end up financing lifestyles.

    We need to game up is all.

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