The Political Significance and Influence of Talk Radio Debates in Kenya

The Political Significance and Influence of Talk Radio Debates in Kenya

Joyce Omwoha (The Technical University of Kenya, Kenya)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9613-6.ch006
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Dahlberg (2013) identifies mediated networks of daily rational debates across political divides and the imagined or actual norm that is implicit in all debates as two strands of Habermasian public sphere definitions. The ‘normative' aspect of Habermas' public sphere theory is particularly relevant to this chapter because of its wide use in the analysis of communicative practice in democratic processes (Dahlberg 2013:4). Talk radio shows, as mediated spheres identified by Dahlberg, act as public spheres for carrying out various debates. Through Dahlberg's assertion, this chapter will interrogate the concept of good governance with reference to participation by the public, transparency and accountability by the government to the public and how these aspects are likely to enhance fundamental democratic practices and their ultimate involvement in governing of the country. The chapter uses Jürgen Habermas' theory of the public sphere to demonstrate the importance of the application of the concept in the critical appreciation of the role of talk radio in Kenya's democratization. In Kenya's public sphere, Jambo Kenya, a talk radio program aired on Radio Citizen, will be used in seeking out the role of talk radio as a public sphere. Jambo Kenya is arguably a program that acts as a relevant forum that carries out rational debates on fundamental democratic practices. These practices, as articulated in the program's themes include freedom of expression, the informed and the not- so-informed participants, right of access to public information, rule of law, checks and balances on power, human rights, and respect for minorities in the society, nationhood, citizenship, corruption and their ultimate involvement in governing of the country. To effectively investigate the content mediated by Jambo Kenya, this chapter will not only focus on the content surrounding the legitimacy of government but also the effectiveness of government by focusing on issues of abuse of power and corruption as impediments to democracy.
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Kruger (2006; 13) notes that phone in programs are among the several radio news formats available. He acknowledges well-produced shows that focus on a particular subject, invite appropriate guests and make sure that the presenter is thoroughly briefed on the issue (Rubin & Rubin, 1993). Levin (1987:145) concurs and states that “talk radio has enabled the public to join the national political conversation by breaking up the elite monopoly of the public sphere. In a political, albeit speculative vein, Levin argues that talk radio was an expression of widespread alienation and discontent, a way of externalizing frustrations with politics and politicians (ibid, p. xii).

Mushtaq Khan (2010) in his speech on good governance at the News and Resources on the joint Africa-EU Strategy states that good governance, as a democratic process, should also focus on the process of public policy formulation and implementation. It requires an efficient executive, a functioning legislature, an independent judiciary and the effective separation and balance of powers, all constituent elements of a democratic regime. Consequently, good governance is not sustainable without effective democratic institutions (Santiso 2001). This chapter argues that good governance, as listed by the World Bank encompasses voice of accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, and regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. These indicators of good governance have prominently echoed in the program as will be revealed in the selected excerpts. As Carlos Santiso (2001:6) states ‘while democracy tends to refer to the legitimacy of government, good governance refers to the effectiveness of government’. This study adopted the World Bank description of good governance as “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences” (Hasnat, A. H. 2001:4). The role of Jambo Kenya as a mediated public sphere is therefore investigated as an avenue whose content focuses on issues surrounding effectiveness of the government. Thematic content analysis is employed in this chapter through the identification of themes in the content disseminated by the show. These elements form part of indicators of good governance, and an analysis of how they are integrated into the larger framework of the democratic ideals in Jambo Kenya is important in the study.

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