Monday, 8 July 2013

The curious evolution of Kenya's television news

Television News is not as we knew it. From the way it is presented to the content that is beamed to our screens, there has been an evolution. Nowadays prime news is longer, it is no longer the 45 minute staple slotted in the programme line-up, news can be as tensile as one and a half hours long. This is because of compelling multiple features that dot a news bulletin,
features on health, relationships, education and other bread and butter issues and this is not a preserve of weekend news only. The content of news was basic and direct, it focused on happenings of the day. News content was run-of-the -mill and simple. But now what TV news has been made to be is dramatic, entertaining, circuitous and box office.
        Just last week, the death of Tony Ogunda, a man who was said to be having an affair with former Minister Raphael Tuju's wife, was subjected to intrusive and manner of tabloid reporting on prime time news. The teachers' strike is being made into a circus with two teachers' unions pulling in different directions. Recently, a TV station interestingly featured a young man who can demolish 3kg of ugali as part of its news bulletin. In the past such an inconsequential event could either have been relegated to the tail end of the broadcast or fixed into a segment. The spontaneous cases of bestiality in the country have made headline news and are part of news highlights. This type of news in the past would have been kept under wraps and not given prominence. Television news has evolved from the force feeding us the tra-la-las of the government to now being force fed on on- screen beauty. News anchors are groomed better, heels are higher, suits are sharper, skirts are shorter and tighter. Television honchos have made news presentation flamboyant in speech, manner and dress. They are playing simple psychology with their viewers by exploiting their desire and pleasure of observing. Observing for no particular reason but drawing pleasure at looking at the piping hot beauty that has sported an equally drawing attire. This has made the living room a sweltering environment for a husband with a roving eye watching news with a keenly jealous wife.
      Tv news anchors are no longer routine beings as back then but they are celebrities, celebrity culture has somehow crept into a profession. The celebrity culture has initiated popularity contests on social media and other avenues over who is the most-whatever on television, this has caused ego trips in some Tv station as an individual feels worshipped.This has reached a point where discomforting details about anchors' personal lives find their way in the public's ears. This is unlike their predecessors in the game whose lives were as private as a hermit's.
       The cycle of anchors' television station hopping is unprecedented. Watching K24, it is the spitting image of Citizen Tv a few months ago. Same comparison goes to KTN Tv and NTV. In the late 90s and early 2000s a popular presenter like Catherine Kasavuli crossing over to a rival station would be unheard of, unimagined and almost taboo. Intensive competition in the media industry has evolved television news from mundane details like ambitious studio makeovers to how long can a sultry news anchor strut the studio set.
         But why the steady evolution? Our dynamic society has changed the media. People are constantly craving for more information, their visual taste buds want to view the tasty side of television news which the Tv anchors provide in form of sex appeal and they can't get enough. Viewers are now more interested in the dramatic than just informative, something to talk about in traffic, during lunch breaks, in their campus hostels, something other than politics. The Raphael Tuju saga made for more sugary discussions than governor's indulgence on tax payers' money. There is no doubt the changing face of news is at its apex ,with technology introduced simplicity in news presentation has been trashed as Tv stations ambitiously try to position themselves high above each other. I'm wondering what's next in this cycle of evolving media.

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