Media Ownwership and Control
This paper shall give an overview of ownership and control of the media by considering the ownership and control patterns and models that exist. Further the paper shall dig deep into the theoretical perspectives of ownership and control patterns by considering the authoritarian/totalitarian, libertarian and the social responsibility theories of media ownership. Specifically, ownership and control trends of the Kenya media shall be analyzed, paying more attention to cross ownership of media and the implications of this form of ownership to media industry and society in general.
The main concern is that with the rapid increase of cross media ownership, where certain media houses run newspapers, television stations ND radio stations, the credibility and neutrality of the Kenya media is questionable. This is mainly because in such a case, the information, news and general output of television and radio stations are merely a summary of what was contained in the newspaper. The argument brought forward in this paper is that the Kenya media individuals due to cross ownership. There is thus lack of plurality of ownership and as a result lack of plurality of ideas, opinions and voices resulting from domination by few.
To add to this, the major owners are players in other sectors and therefore these media serve to serve and promote their other interests. Therefore, the recommendation at the end of it all is that regulation restricting concentration of ownership and cross media ownership be brought to play so as to promote plurality of ideas.Media ownership and control are major issues in media policy in the field of communication which cannot be overlooked in understanding how media works. The ownership patterns of media have changed world over due to general economic growth.
Before the 20th century, many media were owned and controlled by the state. This however changed with the turn of the century bringing with it a rise of numerous newspapers. Southern 2001) puts it that as early as the turn of the century, German press theorists were already dealing with the concentration of ownership that was developing in the German economy and the implication of these media ownership patterns. This trend followed in most western nations where strong economic groups and conglomerates got into media ownership leading to concentration of ownership of the media where few individuals or groups gained control of the media.
For example, according to Southern (2001) the mid 20th century saw the consolidation of media ownership in the U. S. A due to economic pressure and mounting competition which led to orientation of media chains. Many other nations including Britain and other European nations took up the trend in the late sixties and as Southern (2001) puts it, these trends and developments informed other countries world over in as far as ownership and control of media is concerned. It is as a result of this that cross ownership and foreign ownership of local media is in the increase.
In most countries, the media is a capitalistic operation that is mainly dominated and controlled by private parties whose major drive is minimization of profit. Ownership of such media lies in the hands of a few individuals or groups. As Lowlier & Cannels (1994) point out, contemporary researches indicate increasing levels of consolidation, with the media industry already being highly concentrated and dominated by a very small number of firms. This therefore dictates the media content where content that might threaten these interests is censored or doctored to suite these purposes.
While citing Picador, Southern(2001) supports this viewpoint arguing that allocation decisions in such a media are made on the basis of economic forces controlling operations of the market. A study of Kenya Media ownership pattern points out how the media is dominated y a few individuals through cross media ownership thus limiting plurality of ideas and opinions. There is therefore need to understand media ownership trends for a number of reasons as put forward by Doyle(2002) who argues that one reason for understanding issues on media ownership is pluralism since concentrated media owners.
In addition, he is of the opinion that this concentration narrows down the range of voices that dominate the media thus threatening societal interests. In this regard, it is worth noting that there are a number of media ownership and control tatters which include: state ownership, commercial or private ownership, community ownership and public owner Overview of Media Ownership and Control Patterns Although (1984) identifies four major models or exemplars of media ownership.
The first is the official model in which the news outlets are state owned or controlled for example Kenya broadcasting Corporation in Kenya, the Voice of America in America, and the CATV in China. The second model is the commercial ownership which reflects the ideology of advertisers and their media owning allies. In this form of ownership, the media is dominated by private individuals or groups. The third model reflects the financing group such as a political party or religious group. An example of political ownership is the Kenya Times (defunct) which was owned by the then ruling party KANE.
Thatch’s (1984) states that the fourth model of ownership are the informal pattern which reflects the goals of individual contributors who wants to promote their views. It is important to note that the mix of these patterns varies from country to country and overtime within countries. Similarly, Ferry, Silverberry & Final (2009) identify three basic global media ownership systems, each of which exercises a extinct influence on the construction of media messages including state ownership, commercial ownership and community ownership.
State Ownership and Control The attribute of this system of ownership is that the news information agencies belong to the state. According to Silverberry et. Al (2009), under this system, the media is regarded as an instrument of the state. The government regards the media as tools to guide the people towards their social political and economic destiny. Consequently all information, including criticism of the government is tightly controlled. The media is wend and controlled by the government mainly to propagate its agenda.
This form of ownership has been there for a long time and is still embraced by many countries. This argument is supported by Deferent (2007) who holds it that State ownership and control of newspaper and radio were – and remain a key aspect of communist societies such as the former USSR, Romania, china and Cuba. In spite of trends towards liberalizing and deregulation in liberal democratic systems; the state continued to have an involvement in the regulation of media such as radio and Television. The best example of state owned media is the Kenya Broadcasting
Corporation. Commercial/Private Media Ownership In this type of ownership, the media may be owned by companies controlled by individuals, families, shareholders or holding companies. Historically, many newspapers were owned, controlled and even edited by individual media entrepreneurs. In the 19th century, for example, many of the so called press barons wielded considerable additional power and allied themselves with the interests of the capitalist class thus gaining ownership and control of many media outlets.
It is this form of ownership that has led to concentration of ownership where media hat commercial media ownership may involve a number of configurations which include: Mono-media concentrations and cross media / multimedia concentrations. Mono media concentrations or horizontal concentration refers to concentrated ownership within a single sector of activity such as newspapers, publishing, radio or television while cross media or multimedia concentration on the other hand refers to common ownership across different types of media outlets.
It refers to the fact that global media corporations are crossing media boundaries and invest in a wide range of media products in an attempt to maximize profit. For example, ownership of a television station, radio station and a newspaper by the same individual or group. Doyle (2012) further says that cross media concentration can reflect either vertical or diagonal integration or both where vertical integration refers to the common ownership across different phases in the supply chain of a media product such as TV programmer production and TV broadcasting.
For example, Royal Media Services Produce programmer such as Papa Shirttails and airs them. Diagonal integration on the other hand meaner common ownership between different sectors such as Television and newspapers or newspapers and radio. Examples in the Kenya Scene is Nation Media Group which owns The Daily Nation, ANT and a number of radio stations such as Easy FM and Q FM. Diagonal integration also occurs when firms diversify into new business ventures such as industrial production or telecommunication.
As earlier mentioned private ownership leads to media firms placing profit above public interest which can lead to cultural decay in that popular media can become homogeneity. It often results in industry concentration, which in turn leads to stiffing or alternative points of view. On the other hand, benefits of private media ownership has some benefits which include the fact that it can result in better quality products due to competition, the interest of losing market share to a competitor forces firms to put forth their best products. Community Media Ownership According to Silverberry et. L (2009), Community based media are independent, community owned and run media which are usually organized on a non-profit basis by specific interest groups such as women’s collective or an ethnic minority group. According to UNESCO – Community owned media is an alternative medium to public \ND commercial media which engages in a social agenda verifying views and facilitating public views and concerns about context specific issues and discussion. They are thus, operated in the community, for the community, about the community and by the community.
It is worth noting that in this case community can be a territorial or geographical – a township, village, district or Island or it can also be a group of people with common interests who are not necessarily living in one defined territory. What distinguishes community radio from other media is the high level of people’s participation both in management and program production aspects. Furthermore, individual community members and local institutions are the principal sources of support for its operation. As such community owned media are controlled by the communities that own them and not the government or individuals.
A good example of such is Radio Amendable which is owned and controlled by the people of Rained and Ghetto FM which is associated with people from the Ghettos. One audiences, they are typically run on a modest budget and aim to serve the needs and interests of a clearly defined community such as the students in university of people f a small town. They as a result give the best to serve these needs. Also, they are independent from interference by advertisers since they depend upon small amounts of advertising and sponsorship from commercial interests.
Other forms of ownership and control patterns include party ownership where a certain political party owns and controls the media. Such a media works for the party by mainly carrying content that is in support of the views of the party or the party leadership. An example of political ownership is the Kenya Times (defunct) which was owned by the then ruling party KANE. Religious groups may also own the media and Just like the political party owned media, such a media helps promote the beliefs and values of the religious group. Radio Waning which is owned by the Catholic Church is such a media.
Theoretical Perspective of Media Ownership and Control In considering media ownership and control, theorists emerged with that attempt an explanation on ownership issues and their implications on media. Such theorists include pluralists and Marxist. Pluralists consider the value of the audience in determining media content while Marxist consider the owners as the determiners of Edie content as argued by Fourier (2001) that in Marxist ideology, press content predominantly reflects the interests of the owners and therefore helps maintain the status quo.
Pluralists argue that media owners are generally responsible in the way that they manage information since media content is mainly shaped by consumer demand in the market place thus buying public gets what they want while at the same time professional ethics of editors, Journalists and broadcasters are maintained. The argument is that media audiences are the real power holders because they either choose to buy or not. In supporting pluralism in the media in Doyle (2002) brings forward the argument that the existence of pluralism requires both diversity of media owners and media output.
Accordingly, pluralism in media ownership goes beyond audience control to involve diversity of media supply which is reflected through the existence of a plurality of media independent and autonomous media and a diversity of media contents available to the public. Marxist theorists in media ownership borrow from the Marxist consideration of existence of economic structure or the base structure. According to them therefore Media is wend and controlled by a few who rank high in the economic structure.
They believe that media owners who are members of the capitalist elite class use their media outlets to transmit ruling class ideologies. Mainland (1973) argued that the role of the media in such a case is to shape how we think about the world we live in and suggested that audiences are rarely about important issues. Similarly, Fourier (2001) suggests that the underlying assumption of Marxism is that economic ownership leads to the control of content that promotes the interests of the ruling class at the expense of the masses.
This form of ownership and control leads to concentration of ownership and control in the hands off few in the capitalist class in society. Other major theories that explain media ownership and control trends include the authoritarian theory, libertarian theory and the social responsibility theory. Authoritarian Theory control is solely in the hand of the state or the government of the time. The media is controlled by the ruling authority and no one other than authority has any stake in media. (Absolutism in media)The state owns and controls all forms of the mass media erectly.
Therefore, the authority for all media is in the hands of a small group of party leaders thus, only legal party members can publish. Accordingly, media are mental production of ideologies as expected by authority. According to Gibbers, Peterson & Charms (1963) the authoritarian theory is a theory under which the press, as an institution, is controlled in its functions and operation by organized society through another institution, government. It describes that all forms of communications are under the control of the governing elite or authorities or influential bureaucrats.
The function of the press is to support policies and actions of the state and its authority. Thus the units of communication are expected to support and advance the policies of the government in power. Mass media, though not under direct control of the state, has to follow the bidding of the state. According to McLain (1994) the biddings are either through legislation, direct state control of production, codes of conduct imposed, taxation, licensing and other forms of economic sanctions.
It may also be controlled through interference of the government in the appointment f editorial staff or suspension of publication. The implication of such form of control in media is that in addition to denying the media its freedom, it causes bias in media content since it is doctored or bent to suit the needs of those in authority. Libertarian Theory The libertarian theory advocates for total freedom of the press where there is no interference whatsoever from any outside forces. Advocates of this theory were Ala Thug an early 16th century philosopher John Locke of Great Britain in the 17th century among others.
The French in the 1789 in their declaration of the rights of man wrote hat every citizen may speak write and publish freely. Out of such doctrines came the idea of a free market place of ideas. George Orwell described libertarianism as allowing people to say things you do not want to hear. Libertarians argued that the press should be seen as the 4th estate, reflecting public opinion. According to Gibbers et. Al (1963) libertarianism advocates for absence of restraint in press and thus is based on the inherent individual freedom of expression as a human right.
However critics argue that too much freedom of the media is dangerous and as a result advocate that media be checked. Social Responsibility Theory Gibbers et. Al (1963) argue that pure libertarianism is antiquated, out dated and obsolete. This according to them paved way for replacement of Libertarian theory with the Social responsibility theory which allows free press without any censorship but at the same time the content of the press should be discussed in public panel and media should accept any obligation from public interference or professional self regulations or both.
The major argument of the social responsibility theory is that media has obligations to fulfill to a democratic society in order to preserve freedom ND thus it should have high standards for professionalism and objectivity, as well as truth and accuracy. It should also reflect the diversity of the cultures they represent and even though it is free to regulate itself, the public has a right to expect professional performance. (The proponents of this theory had strong faith in the good when necessary. This is the form of control that has been embraced by many states today and has proved to be effective if well utilized.
Media Ownership and Control in Kenya Historical Background of the Kenya Media The Kenya media started with one newspaper, The African Standard, which started n 1902 as a monthly paper owned by an Asian. While citing Echoing, Iraqi (2010) refers to it as the oldest newspaper In Kenya and claims it took an anti-colonialism stand. Other magazines and newspapers arose later and by independence, there were about three stable and influential newspapers- The Standard, Tibia Leo and Daily Nation owned by private individuals.
The Independent government owned and controlled the broadcast media which was solely Voice of Kenya (BOOK) radio and television. Media ownership and control trends changed during the Mom regime especially due to rise of multi-parties in Kenya. This brought with it private ownership of both print and broadcast media. Iraqi (2010) argues that the new political dispensation ushered in some changes in the media topography which saw the rise of Kenya Television Network which was established by the Kenya Media Trust in 1990. Soon after, Nation Television was established by the Nation Media Group. The group later added a radio station; Easy FM.
Royal Media Group took up the trend and introduced Radio Citizen and Citizen TV. According to Iraqi (2010) the period between 1992 and 2002 saw the rise of a number of vernacular and other FM stations which provided all sorts of opinions on issues of the day. It is this period that also saw the rise of other newspapers such as The People Daily, Citizen Weekly, The Leader and later The Nairobi Star. A number of other media have arisen driven by the profitability of the market and the assumption that presence of many media outlets translate to plurality of voices and as a result leading to a democratic society.
It is worth noting that this has however not been the case in Kenya since despite numerous of media outlets, the opinions are concentrated in the hands of a few who own and control these outlets due to cross media ownership. Cross- Media Ownership in Kenya Countries all over the world have had policies that govern and restrict cross media ownership in order to ensure plurality. For instance, the United Kingdom issued a document ‘CROSS- MEDIA OWNERSHIP that restricted controlling interests in both newspaper and radio.
Part IV Schedule 2 Part 3: National newspaper group with 20% or more of the national newspaper market are prohibited service. From holding a license to provide a national or local radio Kenya was not left out and in this regard the Ministry of Information and Communication published the Kenya Communications (broadcasting) regulations which provided for restrictions against cross- media ownership or concentration of media control. The regulation provided that no broadcaster other than the public coverage area.
It should be noted that by the time of its establishment, a number of media houses had already crossed media ownership and thus the regulation was already belated. As Murmuring (2011) puts it, already a number of licensed broadcasters had multiple licenses for national coverage of radio or television broadcasts. It is therefore right to argue that Kenya Lacks in rules and regulations that govern and restrict cross- media ownership. Considering the concept of cross- media ownership in Kenya, Iraqi (2002) defines cross-media ownership as a situation where a media house or a person owns more than one media outlet.
Murmuring (2011) adds a voice to this by arguing that the Kenya media is dominated by a few players who own different media outlets at the same time. Evidently, Kenya boasts of plurality of outlets but lacks in plurality of opinion despite the many outlets since they air the same opinions due to concentration of ownership and control that comes with cross-media ownership. As things stand, the media in Kenya today is mainly nominated by five major players who own more than three quarters of the media outlets. The five include: Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group, Radio Africa Group media Max and The Standard group.
The Royal Media Services is owned by the renowned business man Samuel Manchuria who is one of the media moguls in Kenya today. It owns one of the dominant TV stations; Citizen TV that deals not only in airing of programmer but also production of some local programmer such as ‘Mother- in-Law (vertical concentration). It is also diagonally concentrated in that in addition to owning this TV station, it owns eleven radio stations-nine of which roads in vernacular. These stations include: Radio Citizen , Mirror FM, Ramona FM, Mule FM, Mushy FM, Mug FM, Chamber FM, Ages FM, Woman FM,and Briar FM.
The implication at the end of it all is that all these radio stations give the same opinion but in different languages leading to lack of plurality of opinion despite their being so many. The best illustration is their inclination to one particular political alliance during the completed 2013 election campaigns. Nation Media Group ( OMG) is owned by a number of people through share holding. The founder, who is also a ajar share holder, is the Similar His Highness the Gaga khan. The OMG is predominant in the print industry in addition to owning a number of broadcast media; both TV and radio.
Iraqi(2002) point out the fact that the OMG owns Tibia Leo, Daily Nation,The daily Metro, The East African, and Business Daily in the newspaper category and adds that the Daily Nation is the most widely read newspaper in Kenya. In the broadcast category, OMG owns two TV stations namely, ANT and Q TV and radio stations such as Easy FM, Q FM and Venus. It is also worth noting that His Highness the Gaga Khan has interests in other sectors such as insurance-Jubilee Insurance Company, Industries and Production- Premier Food Company and even the health sector- Gaga Khan Hospital amongst others.
The interests of these other sectors influence the content of these outlets in a way since all the interests of the owner must be protected. The other predominant media is Radio Africa Group which is owned by the Ghanaian Patrick Quarto in partnership with William Pike. The group boasts of owning six radio stations- two of which are the most popular radio stations for the urban elites; Kiss and Classic 105. The others are Radio Jamb, X FM, East FM and Relax FM. The group also owns a TV station; Kiss TV and the third another media house that has dominated the media by owning a number of media outlets.
Commonly referred to as Stan Group, the group is owned by former President Mom in partnership with Joshua Ukulele and one of his sons Gideon Mom (Barbara Limited). The group owns one Radio Station; Radio Miasma, a TV station KIT and three newspapers; County Weekly, Standard Digital and The Standard which is the second widely read newspaper in Kenya. The fifth of the five major media houses is Media Max which is associated with the president, Our Kenya. While talking bout Media Max, Mawkishly (2012) says that it is part of TV Africa Holdings which is owned by the Kenya family and which bought SST from Henry Engine in 2007.
It took over KEY, a TV station and Came FM which were previously owned by Rose Smooth. The group also bought The People Daily, a newspaper previously owned by the veteran politician Kenneth Mattie in addition to establishing Mile FM which mainly features gospel content. As noted before, the media houses duplicate TV, radio and newspaper content thus giving the same opinion even though they are distinct outlets. In addition, the other interests of the owners such as politics influence the content in favor of certain ideas or opinions.
The government and other stake holders need to build up the laws to govern media ownership such a way that will not only provide for plurality of outlets but also of ownership which translates to plurality of opinions. Other media include the government owned CB which owns one TV station; CB TV and two radio stations CB English Service and its Swahili counterpart Idea way Tibia, Community owned Sunshiny FM, Ghetto FM and Pomona FM among others. There are also other smaller privately owned media such as capital Fm, Hope Fm and Hope TV, Assayer TV among others.
Positive Aspects of cross media ownership Statues(2008) argues that ownership of multiple media sources in a single market allows companies to diversify their content in order to reach small, niche markets of consumers, rather than focus all of their energy on a “lowest-common-denominator” mass audience. For example, Royal Media Services is able to reach very remote areas because of the various vernacular radio stations spread across Kenya with the many small sets of audiences identifying with the stations that broadcast in their native languages.
This gives Royal Media Services an advantage over radio stations that broadcast only in English or Swahili since it has better penetration in the market. Alan, Albanian & Michael (2006) contend that when media companies consolidate resources, they are able to reduce the cost of production and broadcast of shows, making it more profitable for both institutions. Locally an example would be that of Nation Media group that runs two television stations being ANT and QUIT.
A team of reporters gather news and prepares features that are available for broadcast on either station. This cuts cost incurred in production, saves time and also provides variety for the stations viewers. Forthright(1999) states that media- cross ownership allows companies to attract advertisers by building larger audiences and distributing the cost of news production across a variety of channels. Forthright(1999) further states survival of free broadcast media.
As the number of paid media services increases, traditional free media, such as radio and television, are garnering a smaller audience share and fewer advertising, forcing cuts to newsroom budgets and leading some to reconsider the long-term viability of free broadcasts. Doyle(2002) asserts that media concentration through cross media ownership helps to spread the risk, more importantly perhaps, the wide spread availability of economies of scale and scope meaner that firms stand to benefit from strategies of diagonal [lateral expansions.
Many firms have become transnational, I. E corporations with a presence in many countries. Globalization has encouraged media operators to look beyond the local market. For instance, even if The Star does not do well in the market, It can be sustained by its sister outlets Kiss 100 and Classic 105 which do relatively well. For local media outlets, the large corporate backing helps attract sponsors that they may not have otherwise had access to. This therefore creates opportunities for larger corporations to reach into smaller local markets they have yet to penetrate.
Examples are sponsored Royal Media road shows organized in the different counties. Although critics argue that media consolidation results in less news and public affairs programming in local markets, Milky(2007) insists that local television newscasts for cross-owned stations contain one to two minutes more news coverage overall than the average for non-cross-owned stations. Technological innovations such as satellite and cable television and the Internet have created an explosion of sources of news and information that makes monopolistic control virtually impossible.
According to Gatos (2008) concentration of media holdings has not resulted in fewer media owners as some critics have argued, he notes that the number of separately owned media outlets instead increased by as much as 90 percent in some markets between 1960 and 2000. In addition to all these, it is evident that in Kenya, cross ownership in media has helped bring information to otherwise would be unrealized areas thus empowering even the illiterate who do not understand the national or official language.