Public Perception of Parliament Broadcasting in Kenya: Towards Altering Mutual Attitude and Augmenting Knowledge
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A major problem faced by many countries where Parliamentary democracy is developing, is lack of public knowledge and awareness about the functions of Parliaments and their mode of operation (Miller, 2008; IPU, 2006; Bouchet & Kariithi, 2003). The lack of awareness is said to be accompanied by a general public opinion that Parliament is an opaque institution devoid of transparency and accountability (USAID, 2010; Bouchet &Kariithi, 2003). It is from this background that the concept of live parliament broadcasting was born; the argument being that live parliament broadcasting would engender a channel of communication – an unadulterated channel free from interventions of media owners and media professionals - between the public and politicians. It was believed that such an avenue would lead to greater public awareness and appreciation of the work of Parliament, better public attitude and perception towards parliament, involvement of the public more in Parliamentary debates, hence helping in making politicians more accountable (Miller, 2008; Franks & Vandermark, 1995; Wober, 1990). Miller (2008) quotes a contemporary British Conservative politician, Norman St. John-Stevas, who claims that: "To televise parliament would, at a stroke, restore any loss it has suffered to the new mass media as the political education of the nation." It is in this regard that this paper tries to find out the effects of live parliament broadcasts in Kenya on public knowledge across the social strata. It also investigates the effects of these broadcasts on public attitude and perception about parliament and its work. The paper further assesses broadcasting practices that could help improve live parliament broadcasting in Kenya.