A recent Good Taste and Decency Survey by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) sought to gauge the current attitudes and perceptions of the Kenyan society on what constitutes good taste and decency in broadcasting.
The results of the study show that 66 per cent and 46 per cent of radio and TV audiences respectively find offensive content being broadcast in the media with greater concerns being the ability of media to influence children who may easily imitate them.
A majority of the audience also indicated that call-in programmes are notorious for sexually explicit content, strong language, and intrusion into private lives.
It is in this regard that many observers are keenly watching how some radio stations that have in the past thrived on such topics to draw in listeners will navigate the new regime that would be ushered in by the coming into force of the Programming Code on July 1, this year.
Only recently, the Kenya Film Classifications Board, while not within its mandate, sought to rein in programmes such Classic 105 FM morning breakfast show that have been spotlighted for their sexually explicit nature and intrusion into private lives especially with regard to the institution of marriage.
The show is co-hosted by two celebrities Maina Kageni and Daniel Ndambuki, who features on the programme as Mwalimu King’ang’i.
A 2014 survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya established that there were genuine concerns over the nature of broadcasts aired by local FM radio stations and infringement on the code of professional ethics.
The survey was conducted following complaints over the quality of moderation, caller comments, inappropriate topical discussions, sensationalised and often immoral contributions as well as blatant disregard of the professional standards and code of conduct.
While talk-in shows are supposed to generate debate on issues of public debate, it has been observed that most of the topics discussed in the morning programmes mostly revolve around sex. As they say sex sells and radio stations especially have been keen in recent years to up their ratings even when there are concerns about their impact on public morality and decency.
Also of concern has been the fact that most of the FM radio stations are not staffed by professionally trained journalists but by individuals who leverage on their popularity in other spheres and hence are less bothered with things like the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya and thus their conduct on air leaves a lot to be desired.
It is expected that if the CA and other agencies stick to their word, many broadcasters will have to be more innovative in what they do, for instance, with regard to moderation of explicit discussions, to retain or improve their ratings, or contend with a hit on their balance sheets.
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In its recommendations contained in a report, titled Free Speech or Cheap Talk?, the Media Council is of the view that while talk show hosts should strive to observe professional control and adherence to freedom of speech, they must, among others, adhere to the Code of Conduct during discussions that relate to issues of ethnicity and religion.
Together with programme producers, they are also required to apply higher levels of moderation and professionalism that should include screening callers before they go on air.
The Media Council further recommended that media houses undertake proper training of talented and celebrity co-hosts who do not have journalist skills and who may not understand and apply the Cord of Conduct.
“This will ensure that they use appropriate language and that they remain ethical and professional during such shows,” it concludes.
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