Ever tried looking for the latest Kenyan media trends, newspaper circulation figures, TV and radio ratings, or even education levels of journalists? It is quite frustrating.
This is very crucial information to anyone planning to venture into the Kenyan media scene either as an investor, advertiser, journalist, researcher or media scholar.
But sadly, it looks like it's not a priority worthy of regular surveys. How else can one explain the fact that Internet searches only seem to yields outdated findings that even go back to the seventies?
I marvelled at the way some of my classmates incorporated month-old data in their presentations of the state of the media in their countries. The lack of a rich source of current information clearly came out in my presentation of the Kenyan media situation.
Granted, students from developed countries have a huge advantage in such situations. The media there is almost constantly being studies and surveys are regularly undertaken and published for posterity.
Kenyan media competitive
But that is not to say Kenya lags terribly behind when it comes to media standards. Journalists from this country have made winning international accolades a habitual preoccupation. Media houses have also made big technological strides in news gathering, packaging and delivery.
So why are public and private research firms not keen on undertaking studies that would act as a barometer of the media status and accord comparative assessments with other countries?
After all, the likes of Synovate (Steadman), Infotrack, Strategic Public Relations and Consumer Insight regularly do polls on the country's political scene. And why can't their quarterly findings on TV and radio monitoring be made publicly accessible?
Kenyan media research commercialized
The almost obvious answer that comes to mind is that somebody has to pay for the research. And the one who pays, many a times, gets to dictate how and whether or not the findings get to be disseminated. It is also not unusual for a price tag to be attached to such data.
This perhaps explains why media houses only seem to extol the usefulness of search surveys, when the outcome ranks them favourably. But disturbingly, it also raises the possibility of research results being doctored or skewed in favour of the highest bidder.
It thus ceases to be surprising, when the findings of surveys undertaken at similar times, yield drastically different results. In any case, if a media house commissions an in-house survey and the findings turn out to be so damning, can the same establishment be expected to release that piece of information?
Kenyan media progressive
Such are the sideshows that generally speaking, deny the country an opportunity to interrogate itself, make amends, strengthen or discard unhelpful practises.
Research findings can be negative on the face of it but will always have an overriding capacity to open the eyes and mind to valuable lessons. Established trends can be disproved or reinforced.
The country is also denied an opportunity to share its knowledge, expertise and experiences with the rest of the world. And the Kenyan media for that matter, loses out on riding on a momentum derived from knowing it is on the right track and not far behind the trend-setters.