Kenyan media battle for audiences in the coverage of the 2022 general election

The Standard Media Group’s KTN setup ahead of live coverage of the 2022 General elections on August 08, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

It is all systems go for media houses in Kenya as we prepare to cover the 2022 general election. After months of planning and intense preparation, the battle is now about who delivers factual, and accurate information in real-time, in formats that audiences can easily consume.  

 According to the Ipsos Kenya Media Establishment Survey 2022, broadcast media – radio and TV – are the top two platforms when it comes to media consumption in the country. Radio has a total audience of 27.3 million, TV 25.5 million, the internet 16.1 million and print has 6.2 million.  

 Newsrooms have dispatched multi-media journalists to all parts of the country from where they are filing reports. In the last few weeks, we have seen KTN News, NTV, K24 and Citizen TV launch their special election coverage complete with new studio sets and invested in broadcast equipment. Television will be a key media platform during this election, especially in urban areas with a high electricity connection. 

 What audiences want 

The most important information Kenyans want to know is the winners of the various elective positions and who will become the fifth President of Kenya. For media, the arduous task is to deliver accurate news content round the clock to a very hungry audience that will be consuming content from multiple platforms and screens. 

 For starters, media content must be packaged in Swahili and English.  

Journalists follow up live IEBC press briefing at Standard Media Group’s converged ultra-modern newsroom. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Swahili is the language of the masses in Kenya, and we have seen politicians address political rallies using Swahili. So far, the leading radio and television stations broadcast news in both English and Swahili languages. It is worth noting that the leading radio stations with national coverage use Swahili.  

 English on the other hand is the main language of use on social media, print and urban radio stations. 

 24-hour newsroom 

To meet the needs of audiences in Kenya and abroad, media houses must plan for 24-hour news coverage until the day the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announces the winner of the presidential ballot.

The Standard Media Group’s KTN setup ahead of live coverage of the 2022 General elections on August 08, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Because the IEBC has allowed the media to tally the results and broadcast preliminary results, a competitive edge will be which media platform will broadcast or publish the latest accurate results on a minute-by-minute basis and proceed to provide the context in terms of analysis and trends. That will be the game changer. 

 It is this analysis that will find its way on social media, and radio call-in shows where audiences will be discussing the results as they come in.  

 Creativity in presenting numbers 

To simplify the numbers, media must present the numerical content in creative ways that is easy to understand. Creative storytelling will be a major differentiation factor.  

According to the Communication Authority of Kenya, there were 59million connected phone devices in Q3 2021 - 67.9 per cent are feature phones and 53.4 per cent are smartphones.  

A live studio coverage set at Standard Media Group’s offices along Mombasa Road. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Apart from watching TV or listening to the radio, audiences will also go online to consume and look for content to share. Media that will not package election results for consumption on various media platforms will miss an opportunity to reach multi-screen audiences. 

 Spread of fake news and misinformation  

This election will also test the gatekeeping strengths of media houses. Fact-checking skills will be very important. If journalists and editors are not vigilant, fake news, misinformation and disinformation will find their way into content. As a rule of thumb, the media must adhere to the basics of journalism – verification.  

 This is the time trust plays a key role for a news brand. Any inaccurate information will have an impact on the reputation of a media house. 

 All eyes and ears will be on the media as Kenyans decide who will be their next President.  

 Carole Kimutai is the Digital Editor at the Standard Group Plc. email: [email protected]