General election has underscored importance of mainstream media

Media covering a past function in Sironga, Nyamira County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

There have been claims in many quarters that the exponential growth of social media has seen it overtake legacy media platforms; television, print and radio as the preferred source of news in Kenya. Many claimed that the 2022 elections would be followed largely on social media and not mainstream media.

According to the Communication Authority (CA), there were 59 million connected mobile phone devices in 2021 with 53.4 per cent of them being smartphones.

This naturally speaks to the high number of Kenyans who were following the 2022 elections on social media, with others turning into instant 'journalists', using their smartphones.

With the exponential growth of social media in Kenya, it was expected that it would play a big role as a source of news in the 2022 elections.

This came to pass especially during the campaign period as candidates used these platforms notably, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok to push their campaign agendas and manifestos.

Disappointingly, during the campaign period, many social media users decided to peddle all manner of lies against their opponents; from the size of crowds in political meetings to artiste's performances in the rallies.

Many got away with the claims as there was no standard measure of proving them. Some conversations trended for days such as 'mitumba' and the famous slip of the tongue by the 'lady of cloth' during prayers for one of the leading candidates.

With IEBC declaring that results from polling stations contained in forms 34A are final, and availing of the public portal, it was expected that tallying and collation of the results would be the easiest of tasks.

Ironically, tallying of results turned out to be the most dramatic on social media with bloggers, politicians and members of the public peddling different results from their 'tally''. Social media proved to be ineffective with endless propaganda, misinformation and disinformation.

There were all manner of unverified results being announced by different quarters for all the elective positions on social media. Some races were erroneously called even before tallying could begin.

For instance, some candidates who had actually won in a real sense had been 'declared' to have lost on social media way before the final tallying by IEBC.

Others who eventually lost had been declared winners in the spirit of disinformation and misinformation perpetrated on social media.

During this moment of madness in the 'crazy' election week, only the mainstream media was able to soar above the fake news, misinformation and disinformation on social media to professionally cover the 2022 elections.

Despite the initial challenge of being overwhelmed by the many forms 34A that came faster than anticipated, most media houses were able to cover ground and by Friday they had tallied most of the results and published.

According to the World Bank, there has been an increase in electricity penetration in Kenya, from 41.6 per cent recorded in 2015 to 71.4 per cent recorded in 2020. This has contributed to an increase in TV ownership in households.

Indeed, the recently launched IPSOS Media Establishment Survey 2022, confirms this increase in access to TV with three-quarters of Kenyans (74 per cent) watching television at least once a week, and the emergence of digital and smart TV, now at three per cent penetration.

Consequently, the TV audience received record viewership during the declaration of the president-elect with KTN News alone attracting 18 million viewers on its YouTube page during the aforementioned period. The totality of the foregoing speaks to the trust, credibility and reliability of the mainstream media brands.

This election confirmed that mainstream legacy media is here to stay. Mainstream media only published verified results with their sole source being IEBC, both at the polling station, constituency, and county tallying centres and at Bomas, the national tallying centre.

KTN and The Standard in particular remained unbiased, impartial, fair, and factual and did not take any sides in the coverage of the elections.

They provided nothing but unfiltered and verifiable facts during the elections period. Households reclaimed back the TV remote control and could flip channels depending on where their candidates were leading. The world was only relying on mainstream media for verified and factual information.

It is safe to say that the world has indeed adopted the two-screen solution, a TV set and a phone. The notion perpetuated in some quarters that mainstream media is dead has proved to be fallacious as proven by the 2022 elections.

The Standard
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