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Of media, elections and emerging trends in Rift Valley politics

By Damaris Kipchumba

The 2022 elections are just around the corner. The D-Day is preceded by many activities key among them party primaries followed by nominations by the IEBC. Afterwards, it will be clear to Kenyans who the successful candidates are for president, governor, women representative, Member of Parliament, senator and MCA.

Currently, media houses are busy with political advertisements and reporting on politics. This is the time when there is exponential growth in political programming across media interlaced with political analyses and daily coverage of political events.

The season also has a flurry of political shows interviewing politicians and citizens by telephone, text messages, and directly in the studios. Televisions also cover live political meetings and campaigns but on a biased basis – by deliberately choosing one over the other.

It is clear media houses have deployed resources to cover political happenings in various parts of the country and, hopefully, by the time we get to polling day, the Kenyan voter will be well informed to make the right choice.

Media has obviously strategically positioned itself not just to gather and disseminate information but to also make money in this season of heightened spending.

The season is now characterised by new media platforms, bloggers, and mushrooming of wajuaji across the country, who want to offer all manner of political advice. Kericho has recorded some of the new entrants – Nenyon FM and Tai FM. Who knows whether they will last beyond the elections?

Well, the impact of politics is being felt across media as politicians continue setting the agenda. It is now impacting on programming and internal content management.

TV stations have created more shows to accommodate extended political analysis and interviews. Kass TV, for example, has a new political show running in the evening dubbed ‘Kokwetab Polatet’. They have further dedicated ‘Monday Edition’ and ‘Opinion Box’ on Tuesday 7.45pm to political discussions.

The breakfast show ‘Betutab Rani’ attempts to accommodate two discussions daily, probably resulting from the many political aspirants on offer. All the guests in these shows are political aspirants, the majority of them from Kenya Kwanza coalition. Maybe, there is a need for a survey to establish whether the region has aspirants from other parties not associated with Deputy President William Ruto. Kass TV having previously bragged to be a “international” should try to live up to that name, shouldn’t it?

Taach FM has a popular political morning show, ‘Mesetab Taach’. Our observation is that this show has been turned into a campaign platform where political aspirants market their manifestos and seek votes. It hosts political aspirants mostly from Bomet and Kericho counties.

The main question is: how can the quality of news and information disseminated by these media houses be improved to empower citizens to make informed choices as Kenya heads to a crucial election in August? Is it possible for local media houses to ensure balanced coverage of politics in this period?

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