Musing over Online Journalism in Kenya

Kenya is one of the active media markets in Africa – but this activity is largely limited to print and electronic i.e. television and radio media. This tradition is influenced by the media model the country adopted at independence about 50 years ago. While in most African countries government or the ruling party had a significant say in what format the media structure assumed, Kenya’s was left to a market system so much so that, apart from the national broadcaster which loosely is modeled after the BBC, the newspapers, the radio and television stations in the country are all commercial.

However, the government, until very recently, had fairly a strong hold over the airwaves. The loosening of the government influence over this began about 20 years ago. But the system of liberalizing the airwaves was strongly controlled by the government with the result that there was no competition among the players. Consequently, the cost of accessing internet remained fairly high in Kenya. It is only in the last couple of years that competition, coupled with the landing of fibre optic at the port of Mombasa, is beginning to lead to reduced cost of accessing ICT.

Typical of developing nations, however, the thin spread of other enabling infrastructures such as electricity and access to the country side has meant that there is less access of internet in the countryside. This has impacted the media in the sense that there has been slow uptake of online journalism across the country.

The leading media houses, the Nation Media Group and the Standard Group are accessible online. However, to my mind the practice on their websites is largely posting of content that had appeared either in their newspaper or the loading of their TV content on their website. Basically, they have the same clip from the TV posted on the website. It is not a case where a reporter does a hard copy version and prepares an audio or video version of the same story that would then be posted online.

Since the liberalization of access to airwaves and the adoption of a more democratic process in acquiring frequencies, there are many radio and TV stations in the country. Most of them have online presence. But again, the postings on the sites consist of uploading previously broadcast content, or streaming live broadcast.

The Nation website does have a photo gallery and a discussion site where readers can post comments. The Standard has an online editorial team. But the stories the Standard team posts are specifically written for that online audience presumably targeting Kenyans in the diaspora.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mercyline
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 21:16:47

    Online Journalism is a field yet to be exploited fully in Kenya though the current progress is quite impressive. However, the idea of downloading the same content viewed on TV, heard on radio or read in the newspaper to the internet site is my concern too. As a media consumer, I would love to see fresh content that motivates me to want to know more.

    I have compared the website contents of other world leading media organizations like CNN, BBC and Al-jazeera and I must admit that I am amazed with the depth of the content. Of course there is similarity of content but a higher level of creativity is involved. These organizations have gone the extra mile to give the citizens a chance to report events as they witnessed them happen. ‘From the eyewitness’s perspective’.

    This makes me wonder what limits us in Kenya! Is it too expensive to have more content online? Is time the hindrance in this case? Could it be the nature of the media houses; in that the likes of CNN are purely news oriented while our local ones have other programs to the website too? I am trying to figure out the answers to these.

    Reply

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