About the Report
The research outlined in this report was commissioned by Omidyar Network to understand the current state of Kenyan media, and to identify opportunities to support independent media.
This report is meant to be a starting point for further exploration and investment. We hope the findings detailed here will inspire media actors, entrepreneurs, and others to give the Kenyan media ecosystem the scrutiny—and the support—needed for accountability to flourish.
A note about the recent elections
In the time since our field research concluded, Kenya’s media has faced significant challenges in covering the country’s extended election period, including the virtually unprecedented second presidential election on October 26, 2017. We have decided to largely omit an analysis of the election because it would be based on second-hand information (while the rest of this report is based on primary interviews). Further, the systemic challenges described in this report run more deeply than current electoral politics, and are likely to persist beyond the country’s current political ambiguity.
How research was conducted
The research took place over three weeks in July 2017. The research team conducted more than 65 semi-structured, in-person interviews, each lasting more than an hour. Media actors with a wide range of profiles represented about half of the research sample, and included experts with a long history working in establishment media organizations as well as freelancers trying to find their voice in a saturated market. The second half of the research sample consisted of citizens, civil society organizations, and government officials. Research teams spent time with these actors outside of the media industry in order to gain a holistic understanding of how media currently operates and is perceived in Kenya.
Geographic & Sector Focus
The research was largely based in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi and its surrounding peri-urban areas. The capital was chosen because of its proximity to both the media industry and government actors; however, as Kenya is primarily a rural country, confining the research to Nairobi created a few constraints. For one, while the team sought to speak to a variety of actors specializing in a range of mediums (radio, television, publication, and digital), the sample has a slight leaning towards published and digital mediums. Additionally, this research offers a landscape overview, but no detailed study of the performance of individuals or organizations.
Beyond the scope of this research, there is much more to examine outside of Nairobi, specifically with the devolution of government powers to the county level in relative infancy. For example, vernacular radio, which primarily operates locally, is covered lightly in this research, but deserves its own study entirely. Assessing the impact of digital (or lack thereof) in suburban and rural areas is another important area for future research.