CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1
1.1 Background of the Study
The digital environment is not static and continues to advance rapidly . The rapid acceleration of globalization has been associated with technological advancement and the international market . Globalization has tremendously impacted on the media as in the case of satellite television, the internet, computers, and mobile phones .
Nickson (2013) argues that technology has advanced to third generation (3G) mobile phones that receive television broadcasts.
The Profound Influence of Television on Society on Influence concludes that life without television tends to be difficult since it has become an integral part of everyday life by providing information, entertainment and comfort . Ngugi (2013) argues that this lifestyle has gradually advanced where consumers are investing in digital cable satellite television services . He further infers that there is an increasing eagerness for services and choice thus a strong socio-economic growth fuelled by technology .
In sociological and cultural analyses of globalization, media such as satellite television, the internet, computers, mobile phones etc, are often thought to be among the primary forces behind current restructuration of social and cultural geography .
In both scholarly work and public debate, the influence of media and especially electronic media is considered to be of paramount importance. Electronic media facilitate an increased interconnectedness across vast distances and a temporal flexibility in social interaction .
Without a doubt, the advancement in technology has directly impacted on the media not only in consumption but also in the production and dissemination of information and news. Accessibility and convergence of mobile telephony with internet services has revolutionized the mode of operation of the media industry and its relationship with their audience who are not only knowledgeable but are also active participants in the production, dissemination and consumption of content on the various media platforms.
This study seeks to investigate the effects of digital technologies, or digitalization, on mainstream media and journalism in Kenya.
1.1.1 Digitalization in Mainstream Media in Kenya
Digital technologies have had notable effects on the mainstream media in Kenya in terms of production, distribution and consumption of content. The availability of modern technologies such as computers, smartphones, internet and different applications used by journalists in their everyday practise have affected how the media operate. The effects are as varied as the applications of the technologies, and often depend on how they are used rather than mere availability. The effects are both positive and negative depending on individual use and organizational decisions and modalities of use.
In regards to media productions, the media houses and workers tend to agree that technologies have aided the production of content, making it easier and effective to produce content that is relevant to the needs of various audiences such as advertisers, government and the public while at the same time helping them to develop and strengthen various revenue streams in an increasingly competitive digital media marketplace .
In an effort to survive and thrive in the digital era, media organizations have had to work together to advance common interests. ‘Coopetition’ is a phenomenon described as ‘business arrangements and strategies in which rival companies that normally compete establish cooperative activities through alliances, partnerships, sharing arrangements and networks’ .
The philosophy behind coopetition is that it ‘stabilizes competition by differentiation, niche recognition, by seeking organizational effectiveness through flexibility, adaptation and limiting expenditures, by seeking to improve the positions of co-operators against a common threat or in exploring a risky opportunity’ .
The motive behind such activities is that synergy, cooperation and resource maximization will generate benefits and growth for everyone involved, and that cooperation rather than competition may be the key to future success .
1.1.2 Social Media in the Journalism Practice in Kenya
The convergence of smartphones and internet services has seen the birth of social media. Social media is a term used to describe a type of interactive media where users create content such as videos, audio material, photos, gossip, news, etc and share it among other users . To distinguish social media and traditional media, Knight and Cook describe it as a form of media whose prime role is interaction rather than just dissemination of information. It is also described as ‘a category of internet-based resource that facilitate user participation and user-generated content’ .
The key things about social media are participation and community . ‘Participation’ means that users of social media not only consume content but also produce it. ‘Communities’ are the gatherings on social media of people who share similar interests. Some of the characteristics on social media include ‘participation, openness, conversation, community and connectivity’ .
It is from the term ‘participation’ that citizen journalism emerges. Citizen journalism is a practice that some have described as ‘journalism of the people, by the people and for the people’ .
Another term that is closely linked to social media is social networks. Social networks are ‘online platforms where users create profiles, post content, share information, and socialize with others’ . Popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Messenger, Telegram, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs, vlogs, and WhatsApp.
There are various ways in which journalists use social media. They include news gathering; where journalists connect to sources, verify information and give information, branding (journalists promote themselves and the organization they work for) and enlarge market share (journalists seek to enlarge the number of those loyal to them and their media outlets, also called followers) . Social media have been described as powerful tools in guiding journalists in new ways of telling stories. This is because social media have tools that enable convergence of audio, video and text .
While there are many positive attributes to social media use in journalism, there are also negative consequences including the lack of respect for journalistic values as well as journalists’ security . Privacy, accuracy, honesty, impartiality, balance, respect for autonomy of ordinary people and fairness are some of the fundamental principles that have been negatively affected . It has also resulted in lazy journalism where people use the internet as the source and verifier of information.
The ‘scoop’ mentality where traditional journalists as well citizen journalists compete to be first to break news has made some post things that have neither been confirmed nor verified .
There are incidences where fake news was propagated especially by social media. This saw the President Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta assent to law the Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill passed in Parliament in May 2018, that stipulates stiff penalties on cyber espionage, false publications, child pornography, computer forgery, cyberstalking and cyber bullying. Sharing fake news and propagating hate speech will attract a fine of five million Kenya Shillings or to imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both .
. 1.1.3 Consumption of Media Services in Kenya
Offline media, radio in particular, still remains predominant in Kenya. According to an Ipsos Synovate report of January-March 2018 , 47% of Kenyans access news through radio. While mobile telephony and television are now generally available, radio continues to be the preferred source of news and information in the country . This is because radio is largely affordable and reaches even the remotest parts of the country. The cost of buying and running radio sets is low and even cheap mobile phones have radio facilities.
Newspapers in Kenya are recognized for their originality and credibility as news providers. Most newspapers also have online platforms . Despite the positive attributes brought about by digitalization such as diversity, there has been no significant improvement in the quality of news in terms of research . Online platforms tend to replicate what was covered on broadcast or print media platforms .
According to an Ipsos Quarter 1 report between January- March 2018 , newspapers have lost readership to 1% from 2% in May 2017 due to alternative options of accessing news.
Television medium has been majorly affected by digitalization in Kenya . Access to mobile and digital technologies have had numerous consequences on production, dissemination, reception and consumption of services . The demands of the marketplace, including immediacy and instantaneity, means that sometimes media houses hardly take time to refine information so as to offer audiences quality content . Digital technologies have firmed their place in business structures in many media houses and enhanced the speed of production of news and other media products. Though there have been arguments that innovations have had negative consequences such as job losses, it is clear that digital technologies cannot be ignored given the changing trends .
From a consumer perspective, it is clear that the consumption and interaction with media is enriched due to technology. Ordinary people are able to participate in media productions. The developments mean that they are able to consume and produce content as well as inform media decisions .
Despite the many positive attributes of digitalization, challenges of credibility, reliability and quality of information produced by users and audiences have emerged. Citizen journalists are not subject to high ethical standards applied to professionals . Additionally, there are rising concerns that digital technologies have made it easier to infringe on copyright and intellectual property .
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Traditionally, media’s role was clearly defined as; to inform, educate and entertain audiences. The media is also referred to as the ‘fourth estate’ due to its mandate of keeping the executive, judiciary and legislature in check. Audiences solely depend