Media concentration, funding and Programming diversity: a critical Study of public and commercial Television stations in Kenya
The study investigated how media ownership and competition influences diversity of television content. It sought to establish whether the increase in the number of television channels in Kenya is accompanied by a similar increase in the diversity of content. In essence, the study assessed the impact of television market structure, funding, and conduct of media players in determining diversity of content as well as the influence of legal and media regulatory changes. The study was informed by common observation in Kenya’s TV market as well as similar studies elsewhere that concentration of media ownership and attendant competition between them has compelled the broadcasters to be more business-like, producing more market-led programmes of drama and soap opera and resorting to increased imitation, duplication and homogenisation of programmes. Thus the increase in the number of TV players many not necessarily result in increased diversity of television content for viewers. Using structure conduct and performance economic model as a framework of analysis, and employing critical political economy of the media to underpin theoretical discussions, this study examined diversity performance of the free to air, advertisement-supported TV stations, both commercial and public service broadcasters (PSB) in Kenya. The study was carried among the five leading TV stations in Kenya in terms of audience market share, namely Citizen TV (CTV), Kenya Television Network (KTN), Nation TV (NTV), K24 and state run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). It analysed programme schedules and reviewed literature on the Kenyan TV industry, media laws and regulations. It used primary data from media executives to understand the conduct and behaviour of stations with specific focus on programming. The study found out that the TV market in Kenya is pluralistic, competitive and unconcentrated. This has compelled the broadcasters to produce more market-led programmes of drama, film and soap operas and resorted to increased imitation, duplication and homogenisation of programmes. While the absolute number of programmes that viewers could choose from have increased, the diversity of content offered by Kenya’s television industry has only increased modestly. In addition, despite its public service remit, KBC is not distinct from the private and commercial TV stations. It focuses on entertainment content as it seeks to compete in what has become a hypercommercialised media environment. Thus the commercialisation of the KBC and the increased control of public television by private media have led to the decline of serious and ‘informative’ current affairs content in preference for more entertainment programming. In essence, this study reveals that despite the proliferation of television station in Kenya, the Kenyan TV industry is increasingly strangling diversity and thus media policy and regulation should be focused on content as opposed to structure to enhance diversity.