Kenya National Assembly Broadcast is One of Kenya's Most Watched Programs
SUNY/CID NEWS STORIES 2009
Just like their counterparts in the UK and in the US, citizens in Kenya can now watch and listen to their representatives live on TV and radio. In June, the Kenya National Assembly took a giant step towards opening the Parliament to the people by launching live broadcasts of plenary debates - referred to as the House Live Broadcast (HLB) system.
Since the inception of Live Broadcasting, parliamentary debates have become the most popular broadcast in the nation. MPs report a sharp increase in awareness of parliamentary activity among constituents. Constituents expect to see them speak during important floor debates. The result, MPs say, is to be sure that they come to plenary prepared with incisive and informed interventions.
The acquisition of the facility making live television and radio coverage of parliamentary proceedings a reality was made possible by the partnership between the National Assembly and development partners, led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The House Live Broadcast (HLB) Project is part of the broad based USAID Parliamentary Support Program implemented by SUNY/CID that has helped to transform Parliament into a modern institution that is more responsive to the needs of Kenyans.
The current HLB was conceived in 2008 by the National Assembly. It was felt at the time that Parliament's business was closed to the public, denying citizens the right to see, hear and assess their elected representatives. The HLB Project introduced reforms to the Standing Orders, and built structures and capacity within the Kenya National Assembly (KNA) which will significantly increase the accountability of Parliament to the citizens of Kenya and boost their understanding of the work conducted by their Parliament.
The Project's main objective was to facilitate the KNA's initial steps towards the production of a live feed for television and radio broadcast. This result supported the Project's ultimate goal, which was to solidify the Kenyan public's understanding of and confidence in democratic governance in the wake of the violence that erupted following the disputed December 27, 2007 general election. Live broadcast capacity is a critical element in the KNA leadership's efforts to enable the citizens of Kenya to become better informed about their Parliament, and by providing accurate, accessible information on its proceedings, Parliament can contribute to rebuilding citizens' trust in Kenya's democratic institutions over time.
In the words of House Speaker, Kenneth Marende, "Opening Parliament to the public will recast the manner in which Parliament does its work. The public will be participants in national debate by accessing, real time, the deliberations of Parliament and its committees on important national issues, as well as its duty to put the Government in check. The Tenth Parliament is very robust and I promise you great content."
The HLB not only allows for television and radio coverage of plenary debates, it will also be extended to allow people to follow committee meetings. The Project has supported additional measures that make the parliament more transparent and accessible to the media. The audio-visual content is linked to a state-of-the-art transcription interface that allows real time preparation of the Parliament's printed public record - the Hansard. The Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit has set up a fully-fledged parliamentary Media Center offering media service complete with newsroom for press conferences, staff and infrastructure for the media.