THE POLITICAL, CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND LEGAL/ADMINISTRATIVE FACTORS AFFECTING THE PROCESS AND STRUCTURE OF MASS MEDIA IN KENYA
Mass Media provide an arena of debate and a set of channels for making policies, candidates, relevant facts and ideas more widely known as well as providing politicians, interest groups and agents of government with a means of publicity and influence (McQuail, 2005).
Politico-economic influences on the media
Politico-economic factors that affect media include the idea of media ownership, media market and financial support. The manner in which the media operates is shaped by their owners, market environments and financial support. In this environment, the media manufactures culture content that sustain the system ‘capitalism’. (Curran 2000b: Chomsky, 2003). The media is in the business of maximize profit just like any other business organization in capitalism. (Williams, 2003; McChesney, 2003; Mosco, 1996, Hesmondhalgh, 2007) McChesney (2003) and Williams (2003) argue that Economic factors/market forces impact on the media in ways in which it becomes an industry, the media therefore, operates as an economic institution in the business of cultural production. Owners of media too can affect the media to only air their political biases. Edward Herman argued in the early 1990s that there were five politico- economic filters through which news passed before it was presented in the mainstream media. First is the size and ownership of the mass media. Here issues such as media convergence, concentration and the free market come in. Depending on the media ownership patterns, the bosses can choose to sponsor or fund some programmes while neglecting others. This will affect the operation of the media as some of the programmes neglected may not be considered as important and might even be forced to be pulled out of the programming schedules. However, media can take a stand on issues by using the opinion columns and programmes to present the view of the public. Belsey and Chadwick (1992) expounded on the free market idea by stating that “A free market brings with it a free press that supplies the diversity of opinion and access to information that a citizenry requires in order to act in a democratic, responsible manner. The free market, journalism and democracy form an interdependent trinity of institutions in an open society.” On the downside, a free market brings about the oligopolistic structure of global media, where a small number of people or organizations have a disproportionately high level of influence or control over the world’s media. As a result of competition, increasing costs and mergers, the number of media has dropped sharply with many major cities being served by only a few daily papers like The Daily Nation, The Standard and The Star in the case of Kenya. The main issue is whether concentration discourages diversity of opinion and ultimately leads to the management of the news by media corporations. Free market oligopoly means that bigger media organizations take over smaller ones, hence fewer organizations control more of the world’s media. Media organizations abide by the same free market principles where media content is a commodity to be sold. This highlights the diminishing importance of public service media. Secondly, advertising as the primary income source of the mass media funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power. Television and all media is generally audience driven; the larger the audience, the higher the rates charged for commercial time and the greater the profits. Critics have charged that this situation reduces hard news coverage and requires flashier packaging of the news. For example, local TV stations give considerably less airtime to political news than to the weather report, sport scores, and human interest stories. Indeed, the line between news and entertainment programming is becoming increasingly blurred. Growing numbers of young viewers...
References: Belsey, A. & Chadwick, R.F. (1992). Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media. Routledge,
CliffsNotes.com. The Structure of the Mass Media and Government Regulation. 7 Jan 2013
Herman, E. (1999). The Myth of the Liberal Media, New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
McQuail, D. (2005) Mass Communication Theory, Sage Publications Ltd.
Report of the Task Force on Migration of Terrestrial Television from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Kenya (2007)
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