On 26 March 2014, researchers on CGHR’s PiMA project brought together media, policy and research stakeholders in Nairobi to discuss themes that have emerged from their work, and their relevance to the Kenyan policy, practice and research contexts.
The workshop, which was attended by more than 30 participants, began with an introduction from the Associate Dean of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Professor Karuti Kanyinga. Highlighting gaps in existing research on Kenyan media, Professor Kanyinga challenged participants to think about the ethics, accountability and potential of the media within the spheres of development and politics in Kenya. He stressed that electronic polls conducted by the media cannot be relied upon due to a lack of scientific rigour, with sample sizes remaining unknown. Professor Kanyinga argued that the media should nevertheless be held accountable for their data-gathering, given the significant role they play in society. He concluded by underlining the importance of PiMA, and suggesting that the key recommendations of the study should include increased accountability on the part of the media, and the need for capacity building amongst journalists.
While acknowledging concerns about “shoddy opinion polls”, PiMA Principal Investigator and CGHR Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan noted that donors have linked the significance of freedom associated with interactive media to poverty alleviation, with the explosion in mobile phone use seen as a critical ingredient. Dr Srinivasan added that besides gender variation, a key area of interest in the PiMA research is investigation into whether differences in the level of engagement in interactive shows have been detected in comparisons between rural and urban areas. Highlighting preliminary findings, he indicated that rural-urban variations are not as pronounced as those relating to gender.
IDS Director and PiMA Co-Investigator Professor Winnie Mitullah presented preliminary findings on audience-survey data in Kenya, indicating, for example, that there was lower listenership to and participation in interactive shows among female respondents in both rural and urban populations. Professor Mitullah also presented statistics relating to determinants of participation and perceptions of the impacts of interactive shows.
Nicholas Benequista, a PhD researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, focused on media practitioners and public-participation spaces that he characterised as ‘created’, ‘invited’ and ‘closed’. He suggested that the PiMA project partners and other stakeholders should consider institutionalizing their work to form a think-tank.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Legal and Public Affairs Director, Mrs Praxedes Tororey described events around the 2013 general election. During this period, the IEBC tried to fill the information gap by sending their officers to FM radio stations “to educate” the listeners on various matters. They also used social media to counter rumours using the same platforms.
Overall, the workshop provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss and reflect on themes and opportunities emerging from the research - specifically around audiences, governance and media agendas. There was particular interest in the findings relating to the nature of audiences, including rural and urban, and gender-based experiences. The project’s potential to deepen understanding of the influence of ‘serial’ callers and political interests in interactive shows also generated a significant amount of discussion.
Going forward, the PiMA research team will draw on the workshop to inform their on-going investigation into the project’s findings, in anticipation of two final workshops, to be held in Zambia and Kenya in July 2014.