On behalf of Open Society Institute for East Africa (OSIEA), DRP conducted research into the status of community radio in Kenya.
The research followed the political violence that accompanied the disputed presidential elections of 2007/8. Hundreds of people died in the violence; many thousands were displaced after their homes and villages were attacked.
Radio stations, especially small local and independent stations, were accused of adding to the violence through fomenting ethnic prejudice and political division on air. Our research aimed to explore the involvement of stations and to recommend ways of strengthening stations so that they would be able to withstand pressure to take sides during political and ethnic conflict in future.
OSIEA, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is part of the Soros Foundations’ Network, which provides funding and other development support for media across the world. OSIEA is currently developing a community radio support program, based on our recommendations.
Our research found that there is widespread confusion in Kenya about what constitutes community radio. There are a host of small, commercial private stations broadcasting in regional and local languages that are widely referred to as “community radio”. However, a closer looks shows that there are only about 12 community radio stations in Kenya – that is, stations owned by communities rather than individuals or companies, and holding community radio licenses. Far from adding to the violence, these stations played a peacekeeping role. Local radio did play a role in fuelling the violence, but only a few, and all of them were small commercial stations.
DRP’s report, titled Poised to Grow: Community Radio in Kenya in 2009, was written by Jean Fairbairn, an independent contractor, and Doreen Rukaria, then coordinator of the Kenya Community Media Network, and now coordinator of the new Community Radio Association of Kenya (CRAK). The report was presented in 2010, and OSIEA will launch a community radio support program, based on recommendations, in 2011. Please feel free to request a copy of the report.