Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kenya see what I did there? (Updated)

After resigning as chairman of the Capricorn Society in 1959, one of the first things David Stirling did as Director of Television International Enterprises was to bid for the contract to set up Rhodesian TV. This was not successful as Richard Hughes says in his book ‘Capricorn: David Stirling’s African Campaign’, “Probably because the government, not unreasonably from their perspective, thought he would use it to further his radical politics”.

Stirling’s first real success was the opening of the television station in Nairobi October 1962. The first transmitting station was set on a farmhouse in Limuru and transmitted a radius of 15 miles. This, however, was no unmitigated success. RTV who had won the Rhodesian contract had put in a bid to open the new station in Kenya but had failed due to certain tactics employed during negotiations.

J.C.R. Proud, television adviser to the secretary for technical cooperation, had this to say in a letter to Alan Bates the Financial Secretary of Mauritius in November 1961:

J.C.R Proud also had this to say of TIE to P R Noakes of the Colonial Office:

So the decision to award TIE the contract to set up Television in Mauritius was at least in part to the ability to bicycle prints and share the costs to enable cheaper programming. This was to become a big selling point for TIE and Thomson as they began to win more contracts, particularly in Ethiopia where the Italian government had offered to gift a television station to the country. Thomson eventually won the contract to install a television service in no small part to TIE’s ability to provide programming.

A television station can, or at least, is supposed to make money and to draw the highest paying advertisers you need the biggest audience that you can attract and that requires quality programmes and lots of them at a price you can at least afford. It’s an ongoing cost. Whereas a TV station is one lump sum that the Stirling consortium were prepared to help with by training staff, obtaining and setting up equipment, drafting legislation, securing loans and manufacturer credit. Programmes are what prompts people to buy a television set that requires a license which at least in part helps with the running cost of the station. In the end, it was TIE’s ability to provide cheap programmes from the world’s leading lights of television at a lower price than they could afford to get by themselves coupled with the ability to sell advertising spots that won the contract to install  Ethiopian television. In theory, this all sounds fine and well but in practice it wasn't without its share of problems.

In the top image, Interlude films are mentioned this is another term for COI (Central Office of Information) films which were distributed by CETO (The Centre for Educational Television Overseas). On average 40-50 of these films were made a year and produced by the BBC or sometimes independent television companies. Mainly for educational purposes and were often distributed for free or at very little cost.

The following extract is from 'Broadcasting in Kenya: Policy and Politics 1928 - 1984' by Carla Wilson Heath:

During the sixties Kenya bought in about 60% of its television programmes as their facilities had not been designed for extensive local production and mostly stuck to a diet of light entertainment with Tom Jones, Rolf Harris, the Andy Stewart show, the Planemakers and Not in Front of the Children from the UK, plus selected episodes of Peyton Place and Disneyland. The reason for this being that the censors in Kenya took the power of television as propaganda very seriously.

Here is a quote by James M. Coltart - Managing Director of the Thomson Organisation - in 1963:

"Recently in Britain an organisation was set up by the Nuffield Foundation
in conjunction with independent television companies, the B.B.C. the Government
and others, a Centre for Educational Television Overseas and this
organisation has been operating now for a year in the preparation of educational
programmes for overseas television. Some of those programmes are on film
and some as package deals for local production. They also have their programme
directors visiting country after country arranging seminars with
educationalists and assisting the local television stations with live educational

Unfortunately, these well-meaning directors and engineers would often pick up various illnesses and distribute them to the local population as they passed through one African nation to another.

So that is one problem solved. I would also like to point out that we can see that TIE planned to bicycle the prints round, at least, four countries. Not out the woods yet, though ...


Capricorn: David Stirling’s African Campaign by Richard Hughes

Broadcasting in Kenya: Policy and Politics 1928 - 1984 by Carla Wilson Heath

The Universal Eye: World Television in the Seventies by Timothy Green (May 1972)  Available on Amazon

James M. Coltart - African Affairs, Vol. 62, No. 248 (Jul., 1963), pp. 202-210Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society

Files from the National archives: CO 1027/312, CO 1027/498, CO 1027/513, FCO 141/12179, FO 953/2155