By Jacquiline Mwangi
Published April 29, 2015
Globalization and the Kenya Media: Threats, Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects for the Developing Nation’s Media Systems in a Globalizing Environment is a book that focuses on the Information Communication Technology (ICT)-driven influence of intensified levels of interaction and interconnectedness within and among states and societies in socio-cultural, economic, and political activities (globalization) on the media in Kenya.
Written by Mustafa Y Ali and published by Image Publications of Nairobi in 2009, the 316-page book appears to be targeting scholars and practitioners in the media, information and communication fields.
The author starts the discussion with an academic argument on globalization based on three theories or perspectives that he refers to as Globalist, Traditionalist and Tranformationalist. He however opts to dwell on the Transformationalist approach as he argues that unlike the other two theories, this one offers a much wider, comprehensive and conclusive account in showing how Kenyan mass media attained four systems of ownership and operation: private, community, quasi-community and public.
Dr Ali traces the development of mass media sector in Kenya from pre-independence period to independence in 1963; and from independence to the agitation for political pluralism in the early 1990s.
The first mainstream newspaper in Kenya, he writes, was African Standard, established by Alibhai Mulla Jevanjee in 1902. Muigwithania a political Kikuyu newspaper created in 1925, led to the introduction of similar publications; African Chronicle, Tangazo, Luo Magazine, Baraza, Sauti ya Mwafrika and Radio Dunia, many of which were outlawed and their writers arrested and imprisoned as the colonial government sought to suppress the demands for political independence.
In the electronic media sector, Short Wave radio stations that targeted the white community were launched after East African Broadcasting Company signed an agreement with the colonial government in 1927. In 1953 African Broadcasting Service was created to serve the Africans. Kenya Broadcasting Service was formed a year later, in 1954, and was given the mandate to establish a TV station to cover the entire country. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) was formed in 1961 and assumed the control and ownership of Kenya Broadcasting Service (KBS).
Upon Kenya’s attainment of self rule under President Jomo Kenyatta, KBC operated the only TV and radio stations. There were three daily newspapers–Daily Nation, East African Standard and Taifa Leo–which were under private ownership of British and American companies. The government nationalized KBC in 1964 fearing that foreign ownership could threaten national integration.
The introduction of globalisation-driven multi-party democracy and economic liberalization in Kenya influenced the growth of mass media. Radio expanded from one radio station to 53 stations and services; from one television service to 16 free to air stations; and from four daily newspapers to seven and introduction of internet service providers.
The intensified changes and restructuring in the media sector called for new regulations and thus authorities were formed and old ones reconstructed.
The inability of local media to produce sufficient and cost-effective programmes led to the establishment of transitional media in the country.
All these changes in the socio-economic and mass media sectors are attributed to the new information communication technology (ICT). In turn the changes have introduced a challenge in that there is a gap in this digital era between the information-poor (developing countries) and information-rich (industrialized countries) as far as the access of information is concerned.
Generally, this book has tried to cover important developments in Kenya’s media sector. The research work appears to be well organised. The author elaborates any new ideas besides providing foot notes. Diagrams, tables and photographs are also used for illustration. The appendix provides information that can be used by researchers and information-seekers.
The use of academic jargon, however, cannot be said to be helpful to the reader. The author quotes publications and scholars, simplifies the point of information but still ends up putting the direct quotes from those sources in the publication. This repetitiveness has produced a publication that is unnecessarily long. The layout and design of the book is poorly done; the mixing of print of varying sizes robs the book of the professionalism it requires. The paper on which it is printed, too, is of varying shades. The blurb on the outside bark cover is not only too long and cluttered–the synopsis, endorsement and praise, profile of the author–but it is also written in very small print, making it difficult to read. The use of varying print type and sizes in the book is not appealing. The title is way too long and the reader may mistake it as being the explanation of what the book is all about.