Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kenya see what I did there? (Updated)

In 1959, David Stirling resigned as chairman of the Capricorn Society. In the same year, Stirling went on to form Television International Enterprises. As the Director of the TIE, the responsibility fell to him to bid for the contract to set up Rhodesian TV. This failed. Richard Hughes, in his book, Capricorn: David Stirling’s African Campaign, suggests the reason for this was “Probably because the government, not unreasonably from their perspective, thought he would use it to further his radical politics”.

Success arrived with the opening of the television station in Nairobi, October 1962. The first transmitting station, set on a farmhouse in Limuru, transmitted with a 15 mile range. This, however, was no unmitigated success. Upon winning the Rhodesian contract, RTV bid to open the new station in Kenya. The bid failed due to the 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:

TIE’s ability to bicycle film prints quickly and cheaply was a major factor in winning the contract to set up the television service in Mauritius. This became a significant selling point for TIE and Thomson. Possibly, even vital when competing against governments offering free television stations to developing countries, usually so that companies in their countries would acquire turnkey leases and contracts to supply equipment.

Paying advertisers are one of the main sources of income for a television broadcaster. And the maximum amount of revenue requires the biggest audience that you can attract with as many of the best quality programmes that you can at least afford. It’s an ongoing cost. Whereas a TV station is one lump sum that the Stirling consortium was 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 Foundationin conjunction with independent television companies, the B.B.C. the Governmentand others, a Centre for Educational Television Overseas and thisorganisation has been operating now for a year in the preparation of educationalprogrammes for overseas television. Some of those programmes are on filmand some as package deals for local production. They also have their programmedirectors visiting country after country arranging seminars witheducationalists and assisting the local television stations with live educationalproductions."

Unfortunately, these well-meaning directors and engineers would often pick up various illnesses, helping to spread them from one local population to another 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