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Thursday, 30 December 2010


Isn't it amazing the way the media blows hot and cold air at the same time? In Kenya, so much had been written about poor families not being able to give their children a decent education. But now that primary education has been made free, the same press is inundated with reports of how the quality of learning in public schools has gone down. What gives, or is the media just mimicking human nature?

The introduction of the Free Primary Education in 2003 was hailed as a milestone for Kenyans, majority of whom had been barely able to put food on the table, let alone paying school fees.

President Kibaki meets Bill Clinton
Both local and international media extolled the then government for initiating what was hoped to be a major element of redressing social inequalities. As a matter of fact, when former US President Bill Clinton was asked to name one person in the world he would like to meet, he said Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, for this very reason of introducing free primary education.

And so the success story of free primary education for a time, dominated media attention. That is, until the press started awakening to the fact that teachers were overwhelmed by the exponential growth in enrolment, already dilapidated learning institutions were bursting at the seams and the performance of public schools in national examinations was in nose-dive mode.

So 8 year's on, the pioneering class of the free primary education has just received its KCPE exam results and perhaps not surprising, private schools have almost monopolised the top positions in the order of merit.

This trend of the media blowing hot and cold, it however appears, is a global phenomenon. A recent BBC story highlighted the fact that many more Britons were likely to reach the ripe old age of 100. But somewhere in the middle, the tone of the report ceased to be celebratory.

The advance in health care, largely responsible for prolonging the life expectancy in the UK, took a backseat. The dangers of having an ageing population, and questions of who would provide for the millions of pensioners, was thrust to the fore.

So yes. Contradictions abound in the media. But that is just but a reflection of human nature. Never being satisfied is the bane of humanity.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


In Journalism, opinions should clearly be separated from facts. But what if one's opinion as a journalist, approximates a commonly held truth? This is what was going through my mind as I prepared to do a piece to camera, at the scene of a horrific night time road accident, where I strongly felt there was need for some bit of advocacy journalism.

11 lives had been lost on the spot and 21 other people injured, on account of a very disturbing reason. That the driver of an on-coming vehicle had failed to dim his lights, as he approached the hired school bus carrying 33 Kenyans, returning from bride price negotiations.

It so happened the bus driver was just crossing over a bridge. And on being temporarily blinded by the full lights of the vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, veered of the road, crashed through the bridge's safety barriers and the bus plunged into the the river below.

So in my mind, it is so clear what was the cause of this accident. And as I do my piece to camera, I wind up with the lines:
"Dim those lights. It could save lives."
Initially, this didn't sound right and I was planning not to use the sign-off because it sounded more like I was either sermonizing or getting my personal view into the story. That is until our crew visited the hospital, where some of the injured had been taken.

The sight of the injured in different stages of getting treatment, the screams of a little boy as he was being stitched, even as the father recounted to us the full lights angle, as a possible cause of the accident, convinced me otherwise.

There comes a time, when advocacy journalism, in my opinion, has a place in news reports.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


The list of people, who the International Criminal Court believes have a case to answer with regards to Kenya's 2007 post election violence, is finally out. Three are senior politicians, two are senior civil servants and one, is a journalist. Yes, journalists too are not immune from impunity.

The man in question, Joshua arap Sang, an FM radio Presenter, is said to have used his morning programme to incite people to attack supporters of one of the two main political parties.

But the fact that ICC's Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo singled out a media practitioner is an ominous sign that journalists can and should bear responsibility for their actions, if they go against the spirit of serving the public's interest.

There is no denying the fact that many more journalists remain culpable, guilty of helping to fan the mayhem that characterised Kenya's darkest moments.

It is highly probable that Joshua is just being used to represent the indictment of the entire media in Kenya, with regards to the post poll chaos.

If the KASS FM Presenter gets convicted, nay, even before his case passes through ICC's Pre-trial chamber and summons are issued, journalists should take heed and see it as a major wake up call.

You just don't use your privileged position and ability to influence a mass audience, to propagate ulterior motives, contrary to acceptable media ethics.

And more importantly perhaps, there is no hiding behind or in front of the microphone, camera or keyboard and claiming it is a journalist's duty to just report or provide an account of what is happening.

If it borders on enhancing impunity, then journalists too are not immune from bearing responsibility.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


 Uganda's Davis Hillary, TPF 4 Winner, Courtesy Daily Nation
Monetizing talent. That perhaps is one area the producers of the just concluded Tusker Projet Fame 4 missed out on. They did pay out a hefty prize money to the winner and a recording contract to boot. But what about organizing concerts featuring the best contestants, or marketing related merchandise?

If reports are true that some people were crying at the show's finale, as the process of unveiling the winner got underway, then it is largely true that such people would have been more that willing to take a piece of the night's highlights with them.

In business terms, this connection with the performers could most certainly have been exploited to derive commercial value.

And here, we are talking about the producers having had had the acumen of ordering posters, T-shirts, caps, among other merchandise or souvenirs, and offered them for sale to the live audience as well as to those following the proceedings on telly.

Moreover, as the show was progressing from the audition stage to the finalists invited to the TPF Academy, and especially this latter stage that lasted eight weeks, the performers were being thrust in the public domain on a daily basis.

It follows then that the millions following the proceedings across the East African region must have developed either strong liking or disdain for certain performers. And to a keen or shrewd mind, therein lies a business opportunity.

A potentially lucrative revenue stream for both the producers and contestants could have opened up if the best of TPF 4 could have been packaged for grand performances in major cities or towns in the region.

X-Factor finalist Olly at Wembley Arena, Copyright Agachiri 2010
I know it is neither fair nor practical to compare such reality shows to what happens in developed countries but that does not mean that lessons cannot be learnt from the likes of the X Factor show in the United Kingdom.

If one momentarily puts aside the often stated poverty levels existing in this part of the world, then the real potential of monetizing the talent on display in TPF becomes clearer, when juxtaposed with how the mega UK show derives huge profits.

Soon after concluding the X Factor TV shows, the most popular acts are paired with the winner and other finalists to headline big shows across the UK, many of which are sold out, and which also act as platforms of selling related merchandise.
Jedward at Wembley Arena, Copyright Agachiri 2010

Can't the TPF producers find ways of organising a musical tour of the finalists and even judges, in various venues across the East African region, at a profit?

It could be a long shot but if the entry tickets are reasonably priced, the legions of fans that have been religiously tuning in, might just warm up to the prospect of paying to get some live action in a town or city near them.