Bushiangala Technical Training Institute, Kenya
The intention of this study was to establish whether the owners of privately held media outlets influenced the framing of news stories relating to the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta between 21st September, 2011 to 30th September, 2011. In order to achieve this goal, the study employed a descriptive content analysis of the news stories by the mainstream newspapers in Kenya: People Daily, Nation and the Standard, with a view to establishing whether there was a plausible link between ownership of the media outlets and the manifest bias in the news content.
The findings of the descriptive content analysis show that the privately held People Daily newspaper had more favourable content for Uhuru Kenyatta as is demonstrated by the coefficients of imbalance; a trend that is demonstrative of an overbearing ownership.
Keywords: media ownership, framing, democratic health.
The political temperament of a society is convolutedly interwoven with the diversity and quality of media content to which it is exposed to. This is because the media serves as a sieving apparatus for elucidating and propagating political information to the citizenry. Ideally such a core function ought to be performed detachedly. However the media has often failed to live up to this expectation owing to influence by media owners on the decisions editors make on news stories (Gans, 1979, p.193), thus affecting the journalistic principles of accuracy, balance, fairness, accountability and objectivity.
Globally, concerns abound of the dalliance between sections of the political class and monolithic media corporations like Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Viacom, among others. In Britain, for instance, an inquiry has brought into the close and often mutually beneficial relations between generations of British politicians and top people at News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's News Corp conglomerate . Such liaisons are a pointer to the plausible link between media ownership and the editorial stance of both public and privately owned media, with the latter taking much of the flak.
Similar concerns have been raised in Kenya. In particular, there is a tendency towards concentration of media with few politically connected individuals and business organizations . Such outlets often abrogate their role of being independent watchdogs to that of corporate mercenaries who adjust their critical scrutiny to suit their private purpose. This is best exemplified in the 2005 referendum in Kenya, where the media content by many media houses reeked of partisanship . However it was not until the realities of the 2007 Post Election Violence (PEV) and the resultant investigation and prosecution of those suspected to be criminally culpable by the ICC that the Kenyan media started receiving unflattering attention courtesy of the manifest credibility gap in the coverage of the ICC case .
Macharia Gaitho, the chairman of the Kenya Editors' Guild (KEG), felt that, much as the media tried disentangle itself from some of the superfluous noises in the reporting of the confirmation of charges hearings against the so-called Ocampo six at the Hague, it was evident that sections of the media were often victims of misinformation and propaganda judging by the media content churned out by such outlets . It cannot be gainsaid that such bias undermines the health of the country's democracy.
This study explores the relationship between ownership of media ownership in Kenya and its coverage of the ICC case against Uhuru Kenyatta. In particular, the study examines the type of media frames used in the coverage of the ICC confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta between 21st September 2011 to 30th September 2011, with a view to determining whether such frames were influenced by the type of media ownership. Of particular importance is that Uhuru Kenyatta is associated with Media Max, a company that owns  the People Daily, one of the newspapers under study in this research. So how the People Daily as compared to the Nation and Standard newspapers frames news stories on the ICC's confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta is a question worth studying. This is because the media is a key player in national development insofar as it remains faithful to the public imperatives.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, during the 2007 general election and the resultant post poll chaos, sections of the media outlets pandered to partisan politics and acted as propaganda mouthpieces for the political class . Suffice to say that the post poll chaos indicated that free and plural media were much an answer to Kenya’s democratic deficits as they are a problem . Furthermore, concerns have been raised about sections of the media outlets that used biased frames in reporting the Kenyan cases at the ICC with a view to influencing the public psyche . These examples are indicative of emerging media ownership structures and patterns in Kenya that have abandoned their traditional public interest imperatives and replaced them with selfish corporate and elitist motives.
This behaviour does not only undermine journalistic independence and integrity but is also anathema to the country's democratic health. It therefore follows that if the issue of biased framing among media outlets is not treated with the seriousness it deserves and its increase curbed, opportunities that would otherwise have been available in promoting professionalism in journalism for national development will be foreclosed. The objective of this paper is to thus determine the media frames used during the confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC. Core to this study is the question of the news frames that the three newspapers used in their coverage of the ICC case against Uhuru Kenyatta. Is there a significant difference on the coefficients of imbalance between the privately held People Daily and the publicly held Nation and Standard newspapers?
The overriding need for this research was due to the fact that no research has been done in Kenya regarding media ownership's influence on framing of a judicial process, with potential implications for international relations. This makes the subject of media ownership influence on framing of special importance. The findings of this study will thus have practical implications for the future of media not only in Kenya but internationally. Locally, this research is intended to assist the Kenya Government in its review of media ownership policies. Hitherto, very little attention has been given to emerging media ownership structures and patterns and the attendant threats to the country's democratic health. Often, for fear of the abridgement of their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, media owners have resisted attempts by the government to operationalize a regulatory and deregulatory framework; instead, they (media owners) have opted for self-regulation which currently seems not only weak but also ineffective. In the near absence of a regulatory/deregulatory framework, there is real danger that sections of the media in Kenya can become political tools for hire at the behest of the wielders of economic and political power.
The situation becomes even dire in the wake of emerging ownership structures and patterns that may prove inimical to democratization; this study may thus be of immediate benefit to the Ministry of Information and Communication in the formation of regulatory and deregulatory policies to ensure a free and responsible media. Finally this study will form a base upon which other media scholars can develop their studies.
Media harassment by government
Until the mid-1990s the media had been controlled formally by the state . The media was subjected to constant harassment, torture, imprisonment and fines for expressing their views. (Mbeke, 2008).
Consequently, self-censorship ensued, stemming from fear of reprisals by the state. During this period the relationship between the Kenyan government and the media had been frosty and at times sporadic acts of harassment were witnessed. In the period leading to the 2005 referendum on the proposed Kenya Constitution, the government accused sections of the more assertive and independent mainstream media of sensational reporting and being anti-government. However, critics of government argued that the media were merely pushing further the limits of freedom of expression and the press, following decade’s repression under one party rule. The government set out to crack down on dissenting media when it lost the referendum to the ODM (Mbeke, 2008). In 2006, fuelled by the loss of the referendum, a more dejected President Kibaki government raided the more assertive Standard Group offices, beat and arrested journalists, destroyed property worth millions of dollars, burnt newspapers, dismantled the printing press, computers, TV masts and shut down the oldest media organization in the country .
The entire media fraternity assertively condemned the raid in solidarity with the Standard Group. Faced with an impending 2007 elections with low popularity ratings, the government abandoned the confrontational strategy and adopted a more conciliatory approach towards media, leading to the enactment of the Media Act 2007 that put in place self-regulation mechanisms for the media . However, the repressive tendencies of government towards media surfaced again when post-election violence erupted following flawed 2007 presidential elections. The government banned live media coverage owing to alleged national security threats, a move critics term as the government's ploy to deprive ODM of the means of communicating with its supporters across the country (ET, March 2008).
Media ownership and journalistic independence in Kenya
In Kenya, the influence of media ownership is best exemplified in George Githii, who resigned his job in the Nation newspaper citing media ownership interference with his journalistic independence (Ochieng, 1992). Githii felt that the editorial policy put in place by the Nation newspaper was at variance with the professionalism in the media industry. Consequently, Githii chose to resign than to toe the line. Ochieng (Ibid, p. 60) opines that Githii’s resignation should be seen as an act of owners kowtowing media managers and journalists to disregard professional ethics and instead protect the selfish interests of the media owners.
The same story repeated itself in the Standard newspaper when once again Githii left the Standard newspaper (in which former president Moi was a majority shareholder). Rambaya (2002) points out that Githii was dismissed by the management of the Standard newspaper when he allegedly wrote an editorial, on July 20, 1982, that was critical of Kenya’s detention laws. The editorial was deemed as an affront on President Moi; consequently, Githii was immediately dismissed both as chairman and editor-in chief of the Standard newspaper. From the foregoing, suffice to say that Githii's predicament is indicative of the thin line between the interest of editors and owners in Kenya with the former forced to kowtow to the interests of the latter. Mbeke, P. et al. (2010, p.46) opine that media owners in Kenya often delegate authority to senior editors to transact business and make industry decisions on their behalf. Viewed from this perspective, it is not so difficult to know the interests the editors serve when making critical decisions that could potentially affect the independence of the media. From the foregoing, it is clear that the direct involvement by politicians is causing extensive disquiet among media professionals, since it is clear they are quite happy to interfere in editorial decision-making.
Editorial independence is no longer respected. Journalists have to either kill or soften an angle in favour of the owner(s) of media outlet(s) or their allies.
Media ownership in Kenya: concentration and political patronage
Before 1992, the media scene was small, urban based and less independent owing to repressive media laws and regulation. However, today Kenya has a plural, sophisticated and robust mass media and communication sector that serves the various competing political, social, economic, cultural and technological needs of diverse interest groups (BBCWST, 2008). With respect to newspapers, Kenya has over 8 daily newspapers and over 10 weekly newspapers. It is estimated that about 2.2 million town folk read newspapers daily compared to 2.6 million rural folk (Mbeke, 2008, p.8). This means that newspaper readership as of 2008 stood at 23 percent of the total population.
Going by the above figures suffices to say that the Kenyan newspaper scene relative to the population is still small and urban based. Conservative figures from media practitioners show that the Nation Newspaper has the highest circulation of about 200,000 a day compared to 150,000 of the Standard newspaper.
There is also an emerging trend on media concentration. Nation Media Group (NMG) is the largest media network in Kenya with interests in newspapers, magazines, TV, websites and radio. It operates the Nation, Sunday Nation, the Nairobi Metro, the Business Daily, the East African newspapers as well as True Love, Drum, Tourist Guide, the Business Directory among other magazines (BBC Media Monitoring, 2007). NMG runs the NTV as well as Easy FM (1999) stations both with national reach. The Standard Group Limited (SLG) owns The Standard newspaper, the Kenyan Television Network (KTN) and Radio Maisha. Another station named as guilty of inciting violence, Kass FM, recently sold a 49 percent stake to another Presidential hopeful, William Ruto. The latter is also believed to have shares in Chamge FM, whose audience is mainly the Kalenjin people in the expansive Rift Valley region of Kenya. The People Daily too has the K24 Television and Kameme Radio. Much of the content in the People Daily also finds its way to its sister media outlets thus affording the People Daily a wider audience under the umbrella of Media Max. Of concern, however, is the fact that politicians are increasingly patronizing the media, perhaps with an eye for the 2013 general election. Among these politicians are two of the leading presidential aspirants. Prime Minister Raila Odinga and others are associated with Radio Umoja and Nam Lolwe FM, while Uhuru Kenyatta and his business associates own the People Daily newspaper, Kameme FM, K24 TV station and Stellavision TV (Mbeke, O. P. et.al., 2010) . Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, though facing charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC, have since formed a political pact to run for the presidency and Deputy Vice President respectively. At the moment, their campaigns are seen more or less as a referendum between those for and against the ICC .
This study is premised on the media ownership theory which postulates that owners of a media organization have the definitive power over the news content of the newspapers. We must be quick to point out that whereas the chief concern of a publicly held news organization is to make profit by seeming impartial as a way of selling the readership to the advertisers, profits may be a secondary consideration in respect of a privately held news organization. Shoemaker and Reese  found that news organizations financed primarily by “interest” sources are far less likely to place great emphasis on impartiality and newsworthiness. Rather, the news content will more likely be reflective of the psyche of the hegemony. Thus, Shoemaker and Mayfield (1987, p. 30) explain that "news content” is 'the creation of the intricate set of ideological forces held by those who finance the media outlets'. As Shoemaker and Reese (ibid, p. 144) opine, the “desired” news content is arrived at courtesy of a well choreographed unethical hiring and promotion practices.
Framing and examination of frames
Reese and Shoemaker (1996) point out that news is a socially created product and not a reflection of an objective reality. They opine that behind the social construction of news, one of the most important factors in news coverage is framing. Further (ibid) argues that frame-building are those factors that influence the structural qualities of news frames, which may be internal to the practice of journalism and determines how journalists and news organizations frame issues. The outcomes of the frame building-process are the frames manifest in the text. This is the theoretical approach that this study is based on.
Entman, 1993, opines that frames ‘define problems’, ‘diagnose causes’, ‘make moral judgments’ and ‘suggest remedies’.
Norris (1995) defines news frames as cognitive schemata, and journalists commonly work with news frames to simplify, prioritize and structure the narrative flow of events. Framing is inevitable in the process of news production. It is the stage at which journalists define problems, diagnose causes and make moral judgments. News frames are embodied not in overt evaluative statements, but rather in 'key words, metaphors, concepts, symbols and visual images emphasized in a news narrative' (Entman, 1991: 7). Tuchman (1978, p.ix) posits that the media actively sets the frames of reference that readers or viewers use to interpret and discuss political events.
Within this realm of political communication, framing is defined and operationalized on the basis of this social constructivism whose intent is to exclude some voices (critical to the media owners’ interests) from marketplace of ideas equally.
The result of framing can be seen at both the individual and the societal level. At the individual level there may be a change of attitude about an issue on account of exposure to certain frames. On the societal level, frames may lead to shaping of the masse's psyche towards a given societal issue.
In this study, framing is operationalized with three measures: number of paragraphs that favoured or disfavoured Uhuru Kenyatta, his favourability or unfavourability in the lead/headline section of the news stories and the overall story tone.
The researcher trained two research assistants (undergraduate students) who were instrumental in the coding of the frames. The selection of the research was based on diversity of ethnicity among the two coders, given the fact that the nature of the study focused on a deeply politicized and ethnicized issue.
Upon training the two research assistants, frames were derived using a two-step procedure. A small sample of the newspaper articles (n=10) was selected to ensure all frames in the coding sheet were relevant to the study and to ensure the researcher was coding without bias.
To determine the level of agreement between the coders, this study used PRAM (a Program for Reliability Assessment with Multiple coders) to compute inter-coder percentage agreement with a preference of an inter-coder agreement of 0.80 or higher.
PAo = Total A’s/n
Where: n is the total of stories on which the coders agree and disagree; A is the number of stories/leads/tonalities in agreement.
Upon reviewing the results of the pilot study from the additional coders, the following percent agreement was calculated for the stories:
PAo = 9/10 = 0.90 (90 % agreement)
The following was the percentage agreement for leads/headlines in this research:
PAo = 8/10 = 0.80 (80% agreement)
It is instructive to note that researchers opine that the amount of agreement in a study or the correlation have a 70 to 80 % agreement to be reliable (Frey, Botan and Kreps, 2000). Suffice to say that the percent agreement listed above exceeded this amount, which therefore implies that this study had a high level of reliability for the coding instrument.
After ascertaining the inter-coder reliability the following framing categories were adopted by the study:
A. Favourable frames
B. Unfavourable frames
The following two categories were identified for the unfavorable frame category:
C. Neutral frame
D. Non-relevant frame
See Figure 1 below.
Coefficients of imbalance
In order to measure bias in the frames, this study used the coefficient of imbalance as propounded by Janis and Fadner (1949). This is an easy numerical measure of the level of variation in the ratios of unfavourable/ favourable or balanced/neutral material assigned to the traits within the examination.
Overall, there were 60 news stories regarding the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta between 21st September 2011 and 30th September 2011.
The privately owned People Daily published 17 news stories (28%). The Standard published 16 (27%) news stories. The Nation newspaper published 27 (45%) news stories.
Descriptive content analysis of the news stories in the three newspapers showed that, comparatively, the People Daily used more favourable frames in its coverage of the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta. The results as shown in table 1 below indicate that two frame categories, the vindicatory and the PNU/Uhuru responsible frames, dominated in the news stories. According to the figures, approximately 20% of the stories contained the vindicatory frame.
The PNU/Uhuru responsibility frame dominated in the paragraphs of 50% of the stories. Whereas the Nation overwhelmingly used the PNU/Uhuru responsible frame (found in 88 paragraphs), the Standard used it sparingly (found in 9 paragraphs), and the People Daily never used this frame.
The villain frame was placed at the bottom because only 5% of the stories contained this frame category. Noteworthy, of the three newspapers, the People Daily used the villain frame only once. Interestingly, the Nation newspaper never used the villain frame, while the Standard newspaper recorded a frequency of four.
Analyses for the usage of the vindicatory frame across the three newspapers showed that the People Daily used it overwhelmingly with a frequency of twenty two (22), while the Nation and the Standard newspapers recorded a frequency of 8 and 9 respectively. With respect to the favourable frames such as indomitable, witty and peace-maker, the People Daily employed them more frequently in its news stories compared to the publicly owned Nation and Standard newspapers. The People Daily used the indomitable frame 8 times whereas the Nation and the Standard newspapers used it 3 and five times respectively. Similarly, the People Daily used the witty frame 10 times compared to 2 times and 5 times by the Nation and the Standard respectively. The People Daily and the Nation used the peace-maker favourable frame 10 and 9 times, respectively, compared to the Standard newspapers 1 time only.
On the overall, suffice to say that the People Daily scored high in the usage of favourable frames for Uhuru Kenyatta but scored the lowest in its use of unfavourable frames against Uhuru Kenyatta. (See table 1 below). It is plausible that the People Daily's demonstration of positive bias towards Uhuru Kenyatta is on account of the his part ownership of the People Daily newspaper. From the foregoing, this study supports Shoemaker and Reese (1991) assertion that the views of a privately held media outlet will largely be reflective of the ideological leanings of its owner(s).
Table 1: Frames used in the three newspapers.
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Table 2: Paragraph viewpoints (frames). Coefficients (Cf/Cu) of imbalance for the three newspapers.
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From table 2 above, the Nation and Standard newspapers showed an insignificant coefficient of imbalance of -0.0077 and +0.0012, respectively, compared to the People Daily's not so insignificant pro-Uhuru Kenyatta bias (Cf=+0.058). According to Shoemaker and Reese’s media ownership theory (1991), publicly held newspapers will be more prone to present neutral/balanced and unbiased coverage (as is evidenced in the totality of the frames used) compared to privately owned newspapers which are more likely to be biased and more likely to favour the owners of their media outlets.
Furthermore, the People Daily had significantly higher leads/headlines and never placed any unfavourable lead/headline in its news stories relating to the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta, compared to both the Nation and Standard newspapers. The Standard and the Nation newspapers were more balanced, with the Standard newspaper placing 3 favourable and 4 unfavourable leads/headlines, while the Nation newspaper placed 10 favourable and 11 unfavourable leads respectively. The accuracy of the leads/headlines in the three newspapers was aptly captured in the coefficients of imbalance in table 3 below.
Table 3: Coefficient of imbalance on headlines/leads favourability.
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Upon reviewing the tone of headlines/leads, it was found that there was no significant continuous bias encountered in the news stories of the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the Standard and Nation newspapers, coefficient of imbalance on tonality stood at -0.033 and -0.065, respectively, while in the People Daily tonality was found to be +0.086. However, the People Daily's coverage of the case did not contain any negative tonality of Uhuru Kenyatta. Comparatively, the People Daily used a more neutral tone in its news stories on the ICCs confirmation of charges hearings against Uhuru Kenyatta.
On the overall, the People Daily scored a slightly higher coefficient of imbalance on tonality in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta, on account of its non-usage of any negative tone against Uhuru Kenyatta.
Table 4: Overall news stories tonality.
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The above findings lend credence to Shoemaker and Reese (1991) media ownership theory, which posits that the political views of a privately held media outlet will reflect those of the owners. In this regard, the privately held People Daily will show more favouritism to Uhuru Kenyatta in its coverage of the confirmation of charges hearings at the ICC, as compared to the publicly owned the Standard and Nation newspapers. Of particular note was the fact that, even though there were flashes of bias across the three newspapers, such bias, however, was more pronounced in the People Daily, whose ownership is associated with Uhuru Kenyatta.
This study proposes that, in order to protect viewpoint diversity and journalistic independence, the government must enact policies that will guard against unhealthy media ownership trends that may eventually suffocate viewpoint diversity in news coverage. To this end, the government must enact laws prohibiting politicians or political office holders from directly or indirectly owning mass media outlets.
 Retrieved from www.chicagotribune.com.
 See KNCHR, 2007, Mbeke et.al, 2008.
 Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. 2006. Behaving Badly: Deception, Chauvenism and Waste During the Referendum Campaigns, Nairobi.
 Expression Today, March 2008; Mbeke, 2008.
 Expression Today, 25th March 2011.
 Mbeke, O.P, et.al. (2010, p 42). The Media We Want: Kenya Media Vulnerabilities Study. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nairobi.
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Simiyu, T. F. (2013). Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism, Online(open-access), e70081924. doi:10.7392/Research.70081924
Simiyu, Tome Francis. “Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta.” Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online.open-access (2013): e70081924. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.
Simiyu, Tome Francis. “Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta.” Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, no. open-access (February 5, 2013): e70081924. http://open-science-repository.com/ media-ownership-and-framing-in-kenya-study-of-the-icc-case-against-uhuru-kenyatta.html.
Simiyu, T.F., 2013. Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism, Online(open-access), p.e70081924. Available at: http://open-science-repository.com/ media-ownership-and-framing-in-kenya-study-of-the-icc-case-against-uhuru-kenyatta.html.
1. T. F. Simiyu, Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta, Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, e70081924 (2013).
1. Simiyu, T. F. Media Ownership and Framing in Kenya: A Study of the ICC Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, e70081924 (2013).
Research registered in the DOI resolution system as: 10.7392/Research.70081924.