History of the Evolution of Media in Kenya

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Evolution of TV

Television gained success and praise in 1963 when they covered the assassination and the funeral of John F Kennedy. This event made NBC and CBS expand its programs from 15 mins to 30 mins. In the 1990s the industry grew much bigger and a healthy competition from the cable industry and new networks. NBC, CBS and ABC faced a challenge as new channels like Fox which acquired permission to broadcast national football league came to being among. In 2003, the federal communication commission ordered all TV stations to move from the analog to digital platforms. This was effected by shutting down analog transmitters forcing all stations to migrate into the digital platforms. Consumers continually use their analog sets with the help of set top boxes. The digital TV provides more clear images and quality audio.

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Emergence of vernacular stations in Kenya Nollywood film industry was the reason as to why most media audiences yearn to have more local content on their screens. ‘When you want to enter into people’s lives, you need to speak their language. Emotion is stronger when you speak to them in their language and with content they can identify with’. These are words from Olivier Laouchez, head of French music network Trace. Right after Nollywood was discovered to be the source of local content, South African broadcasting corporation (SABC) their immediate competitors announced that they were targeting to broadcast 90% local content both on TV and radio. Kaizer Kganyago, on local content commented that “the SABC is the custodian of our culture and heritage. English and Kiswahili are the two commonly used languages specifically in Kenya. For a long time the rural residents were disadvantaged for their inability to understand the languages. In 1996, the broadcasting corporation in Kenya licensed independent broadcasters who challenged KBC. Many channels are going even deeper, with programs targeting specific regions and ethnic groups in local languages. For example, Inooro TV, launched in October 2015, broadcasts only in Kikuyu, one of the most widely spoken language in the country.

AFP PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS (Daily Nation October 11 2016) A study carried out the communication authority of Kenya revealed that there is a great demand for local content. Kenyans feel that our media has a long way to go. However so, the CAK’s functions include implementing program code that set out standards for the broadcaster. As a result, they realized that KBC was the leading television station offering local content. (CAK website) According to (Knab, 2010) local content gives local musicians an opportunity for them o have their music penetrate to the market. He further says that’ the royalties an artist receives and the higher the chances of public interest become’. The same case applies Kenya. Local content both music and films promotes local entrepreneurship which creates local jobs. The urge for more local content saw the light of vernacular stations like Inooro TV.

Politics in Kenya

Politics is the order of the day in Kenya. It can be traced back in 1963 when Kenyatta became the first prime minister and on 12th Dec 1964, he became the first Kenyan president. 8th August 2017 general election, Kenyans were determined to practice their constitutional duty by voting in their 5th president since independent. The most influential contenders were uhuru Kenyatta from Jubilee party and Raila Odinga from NASA. Uhuru was defending his presidential seat for a second term while Raila was trying was trying his level best to be the 5th president of Kenya. This was not the first time for Raila to contest for presidency. Raila has been a candidate since 1997.(African news website) The most interesting thing to note is that Kenyatta’s and Odinga’s family were then involved Kenyan politics since post -independence. Ever since, the kikuyu and luo community have been political rivals.

Coded language Kenya has 42 tribes. Each has their linguist language that is different from others. Most of these communities are also associated with some beliefs also known as stereotypes. These stereotypes are both negative and positive. For example, kikuyu community is stereotyped as thieves. Some of these stereotypes were historical and have been passed from one generation to another. In the political arena, coded expressions are quite common. Politicians use them to refer to their rivals. For instance William Ruto referred Raila as ‘huyu jamaa wa vitendawili’. Communities too use coded language to refer to another for instance kikuyu use ‘rumbwa’ to refer to kalenjins. Coded language is usually used to exclude and include some communities. However, it is always a tool that politicians use to incite and propagate hatred among communities. Moses Kuria is well own for using kikuyu parables. (Musau,2013)


Ethnicity is not always negative. Sometimes it is neutral and can describe ethnic particularity. (Siela,2015) Vernacular stations for a long time have been blamed for spearheading tribalism in Kenya. During the post -election violence, a journalist from a vernacular station was taken to ICC for incitement. A number of Kenyans have complained of vernacular stations for spreading hatred among Kenyans. (Madebe, 2013) An article by Madebe published on March 18 2018 reveals words spoken by the former president Daniel Arap Moi. He warned Kenyans against vernacular stations. He argued that the stations would only spread ethnic hate. However true this is, emerging vernacular stations are not the source of ethnicity. Actually, tribalism, favoritism, selective application of the law and lack of national values does. (Okello, 2018)

Oluoch Okello in his article quoted the constitution article 44 under the bill of rights which states that every person has a right to use the language of his/her choice. This was after the Paul Maina published an article in The Standard saying that vernacular enhances tribalism in the country. Paul wrote his story based on the fact that politicians were using their mother tongue in their campaign rallies. In her report during the launch of study on the content of vernacular radio station on Wednesday 28th April 2010, Ms Elizabeth Mweni the policy and advocacy advisor revealed that the government wanted all stations checked to ensure that they are not used as platforms to spread hate speech and propaganda. After the post -election violence, Kenya suffered a blow. Many lost their homes, loved ones and property worth a lot of money. Peace nowhere. As a result the National cohesion and integration commission was formed under the National cohesion and integration act.(NCIC website)

Functions of NCIC

  • Facilitate and promote equal opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence of persons of different ethnic and racial communities and advice the Government on all matters thereof.
  • Eliminate all forms of ethnic or racial discrimination and discourage persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination.
  • Enhance tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life.
  • Promote respect for religious cultural and linguistic diversity in a plural society.
  • Plan, supervise, co-ordinate and promote educational and training programs to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups;
  • Promote arbitration, conciliation, mediation and similar forms of conflict resolution mechanisms.
  • Investigate complaints of discrimination and make recommendations to the Attorney General, Human Rights Commission or other authority on remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid.
  • Investigate on its own accord or on request from any institution, office, or person any issue affecting ethnic and racial relations.
  • Initiate, lobby for and advocate for policy, legal or administrative reforms on issues affecting ethnic relations.
  • Undertake research and studies and make recommendations to the Government on any issue relating to ethnic affairs including whether ethnic relations are improving.
  • Monitor and report to the National Assembly the status and success of implementation of its recommendations
  • Determine strategies and priorities in all socio-economic, political and development policies of the government impacting on ethnic relations and advise on their implementation. (NCIC website)

Impact of Inooro TV

There is a relationship that exists between mass communication and social changes. The impact of the media can affect their thoughts, emotions and their behavior. However, scholars say that audiences are either active or passive audiences to media messages. The impact can be immediate or delayed. The hypodermic needle theory is the earliest model of communication that portrayed the media as a direct tool that shoots beliefs and ideas directly into the mind of the audience who never question the media. George Gerber (1967) in his cultivation theory argues that the audience who is also the consumer consumes images, symbols and media messages unknowingly from the media. He further says that too much viewing of violent TV programs cultivates certain exaggerated and scary beliefs of the world. Maxwell mc combs and Donald L Shaw used politics to show how politicians used the media to convince voters about party’s most important issues. The agenda setting theory explains how the stories are selected, packaged and presented to the audience.

Social learning by Albert Bandura using the bobo dolls experiment concluded that human beings can learn a behavior through observations. In relations to television, uses and gratification theory it is totally different from other behavioral theories. For instance cultivation theory shows how a child can develop violent behavior as a result of excessive exposure to violent TV programs while uses and gratification theory portray how the user is active in TV content. The theory shows that media message satisfy the need of the consumer/audience. Therefore audiences are responsible for what they consume. Finally, the media does not specifically tell the consumer what to think but rather they give them what to think about. (Agenda setting theory Lippmann 1992) In most media houses are associated with influential politicians, media entrepreneurs and business owners. As a result, media owner dictate the news to be covered, how to be packaged and presented. In this case, the public thinks that the news message given the first priority is the most important.

Media and its public

The media is the channel or tool that coordinates directly to produce news, as well as deliver information. The media connect people from all geographical locations. In Kenya the media is independent and self -regulatory. They determine what to publish and what not to publish. As a result, the media highly plays its watchdog role. However, media is a business like any other. It highly depends on advertisers for survival. (Gachara, 2013) The public is made up of individuals. It is defined by people, the medium, the message and time. Mc Quails model of communication shows how message is channeled from the media to the public. The media audience is segmented according to product usage, demographics, psychographics, communication behaviors and media use. For instance research based on gender shows that K24 and Kiss TV have the highest affinity amongst male viewers in Q1, while KBC, Family, GBS, and Inooro TV have the highest affinity among female viewers. Citizen continues to be popular amongst both males and females, with females having a slightly higher affinity for Citizen than males. In Q1, Citizen had 49% of the audience share among female viewers, and 38% of the share amongst male viewers.(Kayuyu,2013)

Role of Inooro TV in national cohesion

The power of media cannot be underestimated. It is a very influential tool. It influences to shape the publics opinion and perception. Speaking of national cohesion, the media plays a vital role by making sure that they broadcast factual and verified news to avoid conflicts. In his speech, MR Sammy Itemere, the principal secretary for broadcasting and telecommunication urge d the media to report factual and fair news especially on topical news. He further asked journalists to weigh the choice and use of words while reporting towards the 2017 general election in order to promote national cohesion and integration. ( My Gov June 7, 2016) Just by the mention of the word vernacular, everyone perceives that vernacular stations are always tribal. For instance, vernacular radio stations have been criticized for participating in fueling the 2007 post- election violence. It is no different in TV stations. Rather, economic inequity, land disputes, culture impunity, historical injustices and politicians are the causes of ethnic violence. Despite that, vernacular stations like Inooro TV has come up with show programs that promote unity and peace. For example,“Kiririmbi”. It is a talk show that gives political leaders, political activists and the public a platform to air their views. The show’s panel constitutes of members from all political parties. (Gachuri, 2017).

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