President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday made sweeping changes in the composition of parastatal boards, bringing in faces from the media industry.
But what has raised eyebrows is the appointment of four media personalities drawn only from the two leading broadcast houses – one from Radio Africa and the three from Royal Media Services (RMS).
Radio Africa’s Caroline Mutoko and RMS Farida Karoney have been appointed to serve on the board of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), despite the fact that the it’s a competitor. Ms Mutoko is currently the programme controller at Kiss 100 and group-marketing manager at Radio Africa Group Limited, while Ms Karoney is Royal Media Services Chief Operating Officer.
Royal Media Managing Director Wachira Waruru, a veteran journalist, has been appointed to the board of the Kenya Cultural Centre Council. Citizen TV’s Sunday Live host Julie Gichuru has been appointed to the board of Brand Kenya.
The first three – Ms Mutoko, Karoney and Wachira – are very influence in editorial matters in their respective media houses, while Julie Gichuru determines personalties to be hosted on the popular Sunday evening news edition.
Media analysts say the President could have had the good intention of tapping media minds, but the concentration on Radio Africa Group, and more so Royal Media Services could have a hidden agenda. “Looks to me as a reward of sorts,” said a political science lecturer at a local university who asked not to be named. “Or let’s just say an early reward. The elections aren’t very far and the President needs the popular media on his side.”
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Radio Africa leads in radio broadcast, with Class 105 topping the rank among the urban population, while Radio Jambo ha a huge following in the general audience. Its other radio stations, Kiss 100 and XFM, are popular among youth. Radio Africa also owns the Star newspaper, whose growing influence cannot be ignored.
On the other hand, RMS owns Citizen TV, the most popular television station in Kenya, as well as Radio Citizen which has a national outlook and huge audience among rural households. Royal Media controls the vernacular radio segment.
In the last two elections, RMS has been on the opposition side, leaning towards Raila Odinga, but it has been shifting it’s allegiance to the current regime.
The appointment of media personalities has, in fact, caused uproar on social media, with some people questioning the credibility of journalists who accept appointments to State corporations while still practicing independent journalism. “If you look at it differently,” said the lecturer, “President Uhuru could be trying to compromise the media houses and the personalities themselves through these appointments. Even if they don’t support him, at least they won’t be harsh on him.”
The President appointed 345 officials proposed to join various parastatals, 114 of whom are women, making 33 per cent of appointment. The changes seek to stamp the President’s authority on crucial sectors at the mid-term of his half tenure in office. Other appointees include the widow of former assistant minister of internal security, Orwa Ojode, Mrs. Mary Okeyo-Orwa who has been named to the Lake Basin Development Authority Act Board.