Although our national broadcasters enjoy a unique position to shape and regulate a constructive growth agenda for the country, they have instead chosen to beat the laidback path of rote reporting and spectatorship. Despite enormous material and human resources backed by a long standing national audience, the big three are not exhibiting innovativeness in managing public opinion with the vast powers in their hands. It is a sad measure of their inadequacies that many citizens still have to rely on the likes of BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera for analyses and objective perspectives of local events.
Given the imminent entrenchment and expansion of ICT infrastructure in the region, our traditional media houses are facing a slide to oblivion as alternative media for information are embraced. With rapid growth of the blogosphere and social networks, the likes of KBC, KTN and NTV will in the near future have to snap out of their slovenly complacence and fight for relevance. News and entertainment is now being exchanged at the speed of thought from anywhere to everywhere and they might just find themselves with little to serve to a tiny audience. Not even Mke Nyumbani will be spared with the oncoming onslaught.
And whom will they blame? The usual suspects; media ownership, regulation and censorship. These have long been used as excuses to fall back on whenever challenged to redress their arrested development and are no longer convincing. The truth is likely to be that in these media houses is to be found widespread incompetence and sheer spinelessness. Consequently, when these maladies are manifested in our country’s leadership, the media houses find themselves weak-kneed and in cuddly company, unable to midwife change.
Every other day, our leaders grace the studios of these broadcasters for all manner of talk shows presumably to expound on and be held accountable for many aspects of the national agenda. Invariably, the steering by the supposedly learned hosts is pathetically ineffectual leading to unfocused verbiage so as to reduce the encounters to absolute wastage of time, energy and emotions. In the end, presenter, guest(s) and viewers are worse off for wear and issues get muddled up or fuzzy at best.
I still remember when Michael Oyier of KTN hosted Police Commissioner Ali last year at the peak of the Mungiki menace. He literally broke a sweat and his mouth dried up as he struggled through the intimidation of the army man’s presence. Ali never got to answer any question as he brushed Oyier off with “… what you should be asking me is… “. By the end of the show Oyier must just have been relieved to go home, shower and sleep. To hell with Mungiki.
On the other hand, Julie Gichuru at NTV makes it her business to ask redundant questions and then proceed to answer them. “Honorable Raila, how do you propose to deal with the traffic congestion in the city? Are you planning to build by-passes, get rid of round-abouts and even construct fly-overs? Or even re-locate government offices from the CBD? Tell us.” Or in a live call to a colleague at a fire scene, she goes, “Allan, you are at the scene of the fire right now. Is there fire and smoke? And what is the mood of the people there? Are they sad?”
Then comes along Ali Maanzu with the ten-minute interviews after news, three of which he spends introducing the subject and the guest, then spends the other three trying to make live call-in connections and four minutes rushing a guest like Francis Atwoli through labour laws. It is the same with Nimrod Taabu chasing guests through his ten-minute Mahuluki photo-op.
I have no idea what sort of media training these folks undergo but I can say for sure that they are doing a pretty useless job on air. Why invite a guest to speak on a wide range of issues when you cannot allocate time for discussion? Why not restrict your sessions to particular items instead of wandering about? Is the management of discussion panels such a daunting task?
The national broadcasters are squandering a long held position as crucial elements in our progress. The bell is tolling and they may soon be timed out.