Community radio stations in Kenya to exercise more accountability in the interest of the public

On 10 and 11 September 2015 UNESCO organized a mentoring workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, on local radio management for eight community radios taking part in the SIDA-funded project “Empowering Local Radios with ICTs.”

The two-day workshop saw participants deliberating on various management issues within their particular radio stations, as well as on measures to be taken to ensure that the needs of their respective communities are met. Participants learnt from each other and experts attending the workshop about best practices to make their radio stations run smoothly, ensuring the production of quality content.

Sauti FM shared best practices in improving its social services to the community through better programming and addressing real issues of local concern. Through the establishment of networks with different organizations and a participative approach of both the community and experts, they were able to inform and engage the youth to change their career paths from fishing to more sustainable agriculture.

Mwanedu FM also shared its best practices in improving local news from an increased geographical area leading to a more diversified coverage and use of available media as well as the better identification of community needs. The importance of targeting audience and tracking their impact through call-ins and call-outs was also highlighted.

Furthermore, Mugambo Jwetu FM was able to improve entrepreneurship skills positively affecting the management of the radio station, in the context of sustainability of local radios. They possess increased knowledge on income generating activities through advertisements, the establishment of business-clients relationships to widen coverage, as well as partnerships for the supply of equipment.

Finally, Mang’elete FM shared its experiences in introducing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as examples of the use of ICT to benefit the community broadcasting outreach. These platforms helped them improve their programmes through increased interaction between audience and correspondents.

Under the Empowering Local Radios with ICTs project, financed by SIDA, a series of capacity-building activities have been organized in local radio stations, aimed at improving the programming quality, providing training on the use of ICTs and helping the stations to increase their geographical range of news coverage with a network of correspondents. The project, furthermore, focuses on gender equality actions and financial sustainability of the radio stations. The First Secretary from the Embassy of Sweden in Kenya Ms Louise Bermsjo attended the event that commenced the second phase of the SIDA project. She pointed out that SIDA is committed to enhance democratic governance and human rights in cooperation with the Government of Kenya, and media and civil society organizations.

The four new radio stations, namely Baliti FM, Bulala FM, Koch FM and Kwale Ranet FM, were also exposed to possible use of alternative online platforms such as Una Hakika, a mobile phone-based information platform joining networked technologies (including both basic and Internet-enabled mobile phones), together with traditional human networks (i.e. community ambassadors) to monitor and counter misinformation in the Tana Delta. The Sentinel Project, which is running the Una Hakika initiative, could join forces to strengthen the technical capacity of interested community radio’s through this information platform leading to increased participation and involvement of local communities in addressing issues of local concern as well as the improvement of investigative journalism skills, tools and sources. Other ICT cooperation opportunities were also presented, such as Brainstorm Africa.

Finally, the workshop was also an opportunity to interact with the Communications Authority of Kenya on procedures and requirements for community radios and the Media Council of Kenya, on accreditation for journalists and the use of the Code of Ethics for Journalism in Kenya.

The workshop took place within the framework of the project, entitled “Empowering local radios with ICTs”. This project is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and aims at fostering the development of free, independent and pluralistic media. It also promotes institutional capacity-building through widened access to information.