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Kisiang’ani’s kasikie vibaya uko kwenu on MyGov deal with Star

Smart people read the Star, they say – until one village wag escalated this to ‘Smarter people read The Standard.’ And then another village wag upped the game to ‘smartest people read Nation’.

Be as it may, the government of Kenya, through its Principal Secretary for Broadcasting and Telecommunications, Edward Kisiang’ani was at pains to explain a multimillion-shilling deal with the Star to print and distribute the state weekly newspaper, MyGov, containing all government tenders and communications.

Critics of the deal viewed it as a blow to media independence – a logically inconsistent argument; one would think that by cutting dependence on government revenue, the media becomes more independent.

Another group of critics opined that by directing all ministries, state corporations, independent commissions and public universities to channel their adverts to the Star via MyGov, the government is denying the right of information to thousands of Kenyans who rely on Nation, The Standard and People Daily.

Enter Kisiang’ani, who the Star reported “moved to dispel claims that The Star Publication won a tender to circulate and print MyGov in the Star newspaper unfairly.”

The headline might as well have been a “Star-studded braggadocio’’ that loosely translates to, “We won the contract, kasikie vibaya uko kwenu!

We are not told who these other voices that were questioning the Star’s tender victory were, and what was their side of the story.

Instead, the Star rubbed it in: “The Star Publication is now the sole printers and distributors of MyGov, giving the paper a wide presence on all the online and broadcasting channels run by the Convergence Africa Media.”

“Contracts with four other dailies expired in December last year.” Kasikie vibaya uko kwenu!

The other three dailies, the Star and PS Kisiang’ani told us, had no business whining about losing out on the multimillion-shilling government advertisement deal.

We got to learn that Nation offered to print and carry MyGov every Tuesday for Sh28 million. The People Daily offered to do same for Sh23 million before Star spoilt the party by shouting Sh9 million!

“As your PS, what was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to go for the highest bidder for the job? Are you saying I should have ignored the lowest bidder?” Kasikieni vibaya uko kwenu!

There is no doubt that the three national dailies are still smarting from being snubbed by the state on advertisements.

But there is room for research here. Someone needs to hire a research firm to find out if the circulation figures of the Star have risen after clinching MyGov deal?

Is the Star circulating 100,000 copies every Tuesday as it claims? Is it the leading paper in terms of circulation every Tuesday?

The research must factor in the possibility of printing 100,000 copies and distributing only one copy. One can print 100,000 copies and dump these outside one doorstep.

Last time we checked, the Star was ranked number four in terms of circulation at three per cent, way behind Daily Nation (53 per cent), The Standard (22 per cent) and Taifa Leo (15 per cent). See State of the Media reports by MCK.

It is not automatic that dishing out newspapers for free improves readership. The People Daily is dished out for free, but the last time we checked only one per cent of Kenyans reading newspapers read PD.

A quick survey can inform whether Kenyans would gladly buy a copy of the DN or The Standard at Sh60 instead of waiting for a free copy of the Star.  Did the circulation figures for the Daily Nation, The Standard and the People Daily fall on the first Tuesday that Star was freely dished out on the streets?

We might also want to check whether after clinching the deal, the Star’s editorial direction has changed in any way. Is the Star carrying more pro-state stories? Does the adage he who pays the piper calls the tune hold true in this case?

A closer look at all Tuesday headlines can also inform the government whether the Star is giving Kenyans value for money through improved content every Tuesday.

Such research would inform future decisions on how taxpayers’ money used to circulate the official government newspaper is used.

Whether by design or coincidence, the Daily Nation announced it would be running deep investigative pieces every Tuesday. The first of the series seemed to have touched some raw nerves, triggering a backlash from the government that veteran journalist Mutuma Mathiu accused of mounting a fight-back through bloggers.

But we see another opportunity for research here. On Tuesdays, who between Star and DN circulates more copies? Could being denied state advertisements be the best thing that has happened to media independence?

1 thought on “Kisiang’ani’s kasikie vibaya uko kwenu on MyGov deal with Star”

  1. What happens to the readers of the 2 leading newspapers of national circulation? Media censorship? Ownership? But still a new dawn for the media, free of government advertisements and the strings attached! Freedom is here! Developing story worth watching…

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