Television has through the years proven to be an important socialization agent in children’s lives; socialization is no longer solely reserved to the influences of family, peers and other people in children’s immediate environment. Television stands out as a key medium with greatest socialization effects exceeding all other media in its influence on young children across the globe. Children spend considerable amounts of time watching television therefore it is important to pay attention to the content that they are exposed to. Over time, it has been established that media effects on children are more adverse than on adults since the gratifications sought are different; while the adults generally watch television for fun, children watch it for purposes of learning and recognition. Of concern however, is that special considerations and attention on the media content being produced for children aren’t being emphasized.
Content analysis done for instance on children programming by the United States Parents Television Council reveal that children programs contain similar amounts of indirect and verbal aggression as general programs but neither type of aggression are considered when creating ratings for children’s programs. With digital broadcasting, audience segmentation has been enhanced and as a result most Kenyan children are now having greater access to programs mostly whose content is produced for audiences based in the developed countries which has greatly exposed the Kenyan child to foreign programs raising concern on the effect this has on them. Programs specially designed for the Kenyan child are lacking with emphasis being placed by content producers to designing programs for other audiences especially those with buying power. Further, stifled with challenges of funds and infrastructure, Kenya has not been able to invest in children content production opting for already foreign produced children content.
In the advent of digitization process in Kenya, (Nguru, 2013) predicted that the limited capacity to produce content locally would lead to heavy reliance by the digitized television on foreign content further exposing the local audience to a tsunami of foreign programming that would destabilize and displace the rich local values and heritage. The pertinent question is how this exposure to foreign content over extended periods of time will influence the Kenyan child. The content children watch on television is at least important as, and probably more important than, how much they watch. It is therefore important to consider investing in content production targeting Kenyan children. New regulations set up by Communications Authority of Kenya demand that television broadcasters increase local content by 60 per cent excluding news and advertising in the next four years yet a majority are yet to meet the previous set requirement of 40 per cent local content; investing in local programs targeting children is one area that has great potential that is yet to be tapped.
Studies conducted by various researchers across the globe have linked watching television by children with alterations in their behavior; most of these studies have however, been conducted in developed countries with very few conclusive studies having being done in developing countries including Kenya which are heavily relying on foreign media content and especially children related content. More local children content needs to be produced from the developing countries other than on the current extensive reliance on foreign television programs which the children can’t relate to and alters their social realities. The Kenyan Government needs to closely work with developed countries keen on investing in the country through children content production and other stakeholders including local content producers and the media stations. The African child needs African content produced for them. There is urgent need for the producers to focus on content that will amplify children’s morals and values such as honesty, generosity, and respect among others; content that will help them appreciate their cultures and the diversity that comes with it.
Television, Radio and newspaper media have been urged to stick to its ethics of verification, in depth analysis and fact checking in order to preserve the truth in journalism and countering fake news. Additionally, the media has been urged be creative in order to boost its survival by investing in research to fuel innovation. That was the conclusion at the Kenya Media Week held last week at the Kenya Cultural Centre, Nairobi.
“Rather than rushing to publish a story. Check the facts and gather data before publishing. Data journalism, fact checking and investigative journalism are taking shape as journalists and media combat fake news,” said Judy Bisem, researcher, MSci. Project Management, Jomo Kenyatta Univeristy of Agriculture and Technology.
During the event, there was also a call for journalists to exploit the opportunity presented by the current competition caused by friction between mainstream media and the robust growth of social media. An opportunity to work together across the media.
“We do more work when we (the media industry) collaborate as opposed to all of us trying to do our own thing. The current and new generation of journalists, have gained on the benefits of greater collaboration to make quality news content,” Dr. Wambui Wamuyu, lecturer, Daystar University.
There were more calls for the mainstream media to ensure news reporting remains for the public good and accessible to all.
“Media is an important tool of democracy but they might not be aware of the power they possess in enlightening the people. Media needs to understand its role in promoting democracy,” said Jessica Musila, Executive Director, Mzalendo.
“Instead of setting the agenda, media is now following the government’s agenda,”Julia Wanjiku, journalist, KBC radio.
The inaugural conference which brought together over 160 media experts; journalists, media researchers, journalism students and interested parties for three days of debate and discussions is expected to be an annual event to keep abreast and prompt innovation in the media sector.
“I have learnt so much about fake news especially the solution being simple, verification. Additionally, the government hasn’t given so much space to media. It doesn’t provide information and facts to the media, “said Leyian Wallace Mootiun, KBC Radio journalist.
“Kenya Media Week is quite an initiative. The selection of topics attracted the participants. The kind of questions and structure of the conference is exactly what the media is currently facing and talking about. I have learnt so much from the participants and my fellow panelists,” said Anthony Makokha, Digital Media Editor, Nation Media group digital.
“I have been following the conversation online for the last two days before coming here today. It has been very intriguing. I hope we can continue the conversation and not let it end here, but use the ideas and solutions discussed can be really used to improve our sector. I strongly believe that this interaction between experienced journalists and new/upcoming journalists will shape the future of the media,” said Emmanuel Yegon, founder, Mobile Journalism Africa.
The organizers of Kenya Media Week, Media Focus on Africa in partnership with National Endowment for Democracy and experts in the media, have confidence in the value of bringing together media research and industry experts to move the media sector forward.
“We are going to do a publication of all the research papers presented and feedback received over these couple of days,” said Simon Gicia, Communications Officer, Media Focus on Kenya.