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Last Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008, 16:29 GMT
Kenya's vibrant and critical media
Kenya's media have been in the spotlight over their coverage of the political violence sweeping the country, and over the government's move to curb some broadcast output.

Kenya: Microphone collars
Kenyan journalism can be lively and informed
The country boasts one of Africa's liveliest and most-developed media scenes, spurred by an extensive advertising market and a sizeable middle class.

Most Kenyans rely on broadcasters, particularly radio, for news. Since the mid-1990s, private TV and radio have flourished.

Outlets cater for the country's 40-plus ethnic groups and many Kenyans have access to media in at least three languages: that of their ethnic group, Swahili, and English.

Outside the cities, newspaper distribution is limited. Internet access is largely restricted to the urban elite.

Journalism in the private media is often lively and informed.

Rocky relations

As well as the challenge of reporting on the violence that followed the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in December 2007, Kenyan broadcasters faced the additional difficulty of complying with a government ban on live broadcasts.

Gagged Kenyan journalists in silent protest, August 2007
Journalists rallied against attempts to force them to reveal sources
Even before the crisis erupted, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders spoke of "appalling" relations between the government and private media.

This manifested itself in raids on media premises, including those of private TV station KTN and The Standard newspaper in 2006.

Media legislation is another hot potato. In May 2007 the government tabled a new bill that sanctioned tighter media controls. Media operators warned of "dire implications".

Months later, journalists staged a silent protest in Nairobi against a law that would have compelled them to disclose their sources. President Kibaki rejected the bill.


Radio is the most popular medium, especially in rural areas. Nearly all households have a radio set.

There are scores of stations - a far cry from the days before 1995, when the state broadcaster KBC enjoyed a monopoly. Most outlets are privately-owned and entertainment-oriented. Many are based in Nairobi.

Some stations have a free-wheeling on-air style, employing local musicians or comedians as presenters. Disrespect towards authority figures can be a feature of this trend. The use of mobile phones has fuelled the popularity of phone-ins.

Leading stations:

State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) operates national channels in Swahili and English and local services in 15 languages. KBC news gives prominence to government activities and its on-air style can seem pedestrian when compared to the livelier private stations.

Privately-owned Kiss 100 FM is Nairobi's most popular station, featuring an up-tempo mix of music presented by lively personalities. The station was one of the first broadcasters to defy a government curb on live phone-in shows, imposed amid political violence in December 2007.

Private station Radio Citizen targets rural listeners and covers much of the country. Since the government's defeat in a 2005 referendum on presidential powers, it has given more prominence to the opposition.

Capital FM was the first private radio station - in September 1996 - to break the KBC monopoly.

Nairobi-based private station Umoja FM launched just before the December 2007 elections and has played a significant role as a pro-opposition station, carrying news of Orange Democratic Movement activities.

Provincial radio: There has been a steady growth in stations broadcasting in local languages. Based in provincial towns, they have thrived despite fears in the late 1990s that they could inflame ethnic tensions.

By 2007, they commanded a 27% share of listening, compared with the 33% held by mainstream radio stations.

The main local-language stations target listeners from the six main ethnic communities: Kikuyus (central Kenya), Luos (west), Luhyas (west), Kalenjins (northwest), Kambas (southeast) and Kisiis (southwest).

They were prominent during the 2005 referendum, when there were claims that some of them aired "hate" broadcasts.

International broadcasters, including the BBC, are available via local relays.


Television ownership is on the rise. Free-to-air stations feature local news alongside imported programmes. Some carry reports from international broadcasters, including the BBC.

Satellite TV is out of the financial reach of many Kenyans, and the availability of cable TV is very limited.

Key broadcasters include state-owned KBC Television, whose Channel 1 claims to cover 90% of the country. It carries more home-made material than its private rivals. KBC Channel 2 targets urban viewers with an entertainment-based format.

In 1990, Kenya Television Network (KTN) became the first station to break the state broadcasting monopoly. Its lively style contrasted strongly with KBC's output and it is still seen as having a less rigid news agenda. But much of the country is out of range of its signal.

Said to be the leading private station, NTV is run by the Nation Media Group whose lead stakeholder is the Aga Khan. It launched in 1999 as Nation TV. It has poached leading journalists and presenters from its rivals and is known for its polished output.

Alongside its sister radio station, Citizen TV targets rural Kenya. Since a 2006 relaunch, it has sought to shed its pro-government line.

Privately-owned K24 launched in November 2007 and took on a pro-government stance. It positions itself as a 24-hour news and features channel.

The press

The Kenyan press is the most sophisticated in the region. Four daily English-language newspapers are published from Nairobi: Daily Nation, The Standard, Kenya Times and The People Daily.

Woman holds charred remains of copy of The Standard
The Standard newspaper was raided in 2006
Only the Daily Nation and The Standard can claim anything approaching reliable and widespread national circulation.

The Daily Nation accounts for the bulk of newspaper sales. It is seen as an independent paper with good journalistic standards. Its editorials often criticise the government.

The Standard is Kenya's second-largest circulation paper, and the country's oldest newspaper. It has been critical of the government, and was raided by police in 2006.

The EastAfrican is a weekly published by the Nation Media Group. It features regional coverage and has a reputation for good journalistic standards.

A large group of news sheets - available from street vendors - are described by the authorities and some Kenyans as the "gutter press". They dwell on the alleged misdeeds of prominent figures, and celebrity gossip.


The internet came to Kenya in the mid-1990s and has become an important feature of the local media. However, availability is largely confined to urban areas. There are scores of internet service providers (ISPs) and thousands of cyber-cafes.

Following a ban on live broadcasts and call-in shows that the government imposed in the wake of disputed presidential elections in December 2007, blogs and forums from and about Kenya emerged as significant sources of news, information and comment.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

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