CGHR Director Sharath Srinivasan will be speaking at Voice and Matter: the fourth annual Communication for Development event taking place at Roskilde University in September 2014.
The 4 day event is a mixture of academic conference and cultural festival, open to anyone with an interest in Communication for Development. Registration is open until the 31st August and available here.
Dr Srinivasan will be appearing on a panel to discuss ICT for development and citizen engagement, to address this year's theme: the concepts of voice and matter. He will present on insights from CGHR projects: Africa's Voices and PiMA (Politics and Interactive Media in Africa).
A preliminary programme is available to download here.
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.
PiMA Roundtable: CGHR researchers meet with academics and practitioners to discuss preliminary findings project
On February 14, PiMA researchers convened a group of experts for a roundtable discussion on Researching Public Opinion and Political Accountability: Broadcasting and New Media in Contemporary African Context. The event, which was chaired by former CGHR Research Associate Dr Iginio Gagliardone (University of Oxford), included presentations by Dr Wendy Willems (LSE); Professor Hugh Chignell (Bournemouth University); Dr Mary Myers (Development Communication Consultant); Anna Godfrey and Dr Zoe Fortune (BBC Media Action).
Attendees presented on a range of topics, including understanding audiences, media and accountability; historical and contemporary trends in political broadcast talk and current affairs trends in Britain and beyond; contrasting interactive broadcasting with other kinds of interactivity; and theorising media change and political change in Zambia.
CGHR Associates Alastair Fraser, Claudia Abreu Lopes and Fred Mudhai also presented initial findings and insights from the Centre's PiMA project.
On 19 July 2013, the PiMA research team held a stakeholder forum at Chita Lodge in Lusaka, Zambia, in order to share and discuss early research findings with policy, media and donor communities. Participants included Radio Phoenix, Irish Aid, BBC Media Action, UNZA, DFID and the World Bank, among others.
Beginning with an overview of the project’s aims and methodology, the forum focused on early findings from survey research in low-income constituencies, and qualitative research from inside radio and TV stations in Kenya and Zambia. Participants expressed interest in further analysis of survey results to better understand the roles of social issues and language as potential reasons for participation and non-participation. Additionally, some felt that the research presents an opportunity to further investigate regional and gender-based dimensions of participation in interactive media. Finally, responding to findings from research into media houses, debates highlighted the complex and ambiguous role of ownership and control in interactive media spaces.
The forum was chaired by PiMA co-investigator Mr Neo Simutanyi, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Lusaka, with presentations by Principal Investigator Dr Sharath Srinivasan (University of Cambridge), Co-Investigator Professor Winnie Mitullah (University of Nairobi), and PiMA Research Associates Dr Fred Okoth Mudhai (University of Cambridge) and Dr Alastair Fraser (University of Cambridge).
The Politics and Interactive Media in Africa (PiMA) Kenya team held a successful half-day stakeholder roundtable discussion on 21 February 2013 at the Nairobi Safari Club, Lillian Towers. The meeting brought together 19 key representatives from government, regulatory bodies, broadcast media, media assistance/funding organisations, media associations and civil society. It provided an active forum to introduce stakeholders to the PiMA project, gain insight into their views on important questions with regards to the project aims, and receive input on potentially useful project outputs and forms of engagement.
Government and regulatory sectors were represented by the Acting Director of Public Communications in the Department of Public Communications, who is also Secretary of the National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring, the Principal Legal Officer at the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and a Commissioner and Vice-Chairperson from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Media practitioners included the Editor-in-Chief of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, a Team Leader from Koch FM and representatives of religious broadcaster Hope FM. Additionally, a diverse group of media associations, active in media development, training, research and funding, participated in the workshop, including the National Co-ordinator of Community Radio Association of Kenya (CRAK), Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Media Focus on Africa, Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL), African Media Initiative (AMI), Hivos Kenya Media Programme, School of Journalism at University of Nairobi, UN-Habitat and Ipsos Synovate.
Taking cue from opening remarks by representatives of the Ministry of Information and Communications, CCK and IEBC, participants noted an opening of media space has correlated with advances in the democratisation process, in particular suggesting there are indications that marginalised groups make use of interactive media, for instance through community radio, to hold political leadership accountable. However, they also raised concerns that the regulatory framework for interactive communications is inadequately developed – making social media in particular open to abuse.
A number of insights for PiMA were drawn from the discussion. Many stakeholders felt the mainstream media under-represent ordinary peoples’ opinions and priorities, and especially minorities, women and the youth. “Media is an agent of marginalization; and new media can also marginalise,” IEBC Commissioner, Muthoni Wangai, commented. A number of questions were raised. Is mainstream media doing justice to society’s diversity? What informs the choice of what to air? What informs media houses’ decisions to invite studio guests? Does interactive media lead to development of new knowledge? How do we measure the knowledge that people have acquired through interactive media? Who monitors media output, and why?
Koch FM Team Leader Tom Mboya recalled anecdotes from their work that underscored his belief that “the marginalised have power if given a voice”. “Just by going on air and saying this is illegal, we brought change,” Mboya said of their impact on corruption, impunity and insecurity concerns in Korogocho slum, Nairobi. IEBC Vice-chairperson Lillian Mahiri-Zaja told of how Nairobi-based Ghetto FM is another local radio station targeting the marginalised, giving them some element of “power to set political agenda”. AMWIK highlighted their role in empowerment through community radio listening groups.
Participants also hypothesised that there is some level of stratification in the use of interactive media, with women being marginalised. They suggested that in addition to conventional broadcast media, the project should consider interrogating the role of social media as growing hubs of interactivity, and include as many demography factors as possible.
Participants also noted that to catch up with the times, political and electoral institutions such as IEBC should make their communication systems more interactive. A case in point is the helplessness of many citizens who found themselves registered as members of political parties without their consent – but with no organisation accountable or responsive to them on the matter.
The workshop concluded with stakeholders confirming their willingness to assist in the project’s knowledge generation objectives and activities. The PiMA team will organise a second, similar platform of stakeholders for information sharing and learning later in the project lifecycle.
The meeting was chaired by PiMA country Co-Investigator, Prof Winnie Mitullah of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi and PiMA’s University of Cambridge Research Associate, Dr Fred Mudhai, with the help of Kenya-based PiMA Research Assistants, Sammy Mwangi and Moses Maina. Including PiMA and IDS staff, the meeting attracted 24 participants.