An evaluation of moderators’ performance and perceptions on coverage of issues in 2013 presidential debate in Kenya by Citizen Television
OVIYO, Macdonald Libwege
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This study evaluated performance of moderators and perceptions of viewers on coverage of issues in 2013 presidential debate in Kenya. A consortium of major media houses in Kenya organized the 2013 televised presidential debate as an avenue for evaluation of presidential candidates by the voters to enable them have a deeper understanding of each political contestant‟s knowledge on various issues and characters hence making a meaningful decision in March 4, 2013 general election. However, moderators received criticism for their performance and coverage of issues in 2013 presidential debate. The critics claimed that the debate was unbalanced and unfair. That the moderators focused on a few key issues facing Kenyans and the candidates were not given adequate opportunities to be assessed on the more pressing issues. Specific objectives of the study were: to assess the performance of moderators in the 2013 presidential debate in Kenya, to ascertain the extent to which political scandals were covered with regard to each presidential aspirant and to analyze the perceptions of viewers on coverage of issues in the 2013 presidential debate in Kenya. This study was guided by Agenda Setting theory by Mc combs & Shaw (1972) which postulate that mass media have the ability to transfer their salient issues on their news agenda to the public. The researcher used analytical research design. The population of study is journalists who were moderators in 2013 Kenyan presidential debate that was aired by Citizen Television and communication and journalism students who were drawn from Daystar University. The study used mixed sampling; Saturation and simple random sampling. Saturation sampling justifies the study of all elements. All four moderators who oversee debate were study and ten participants in FGD. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect data. Data was also analyzed by both quantitative and qualitative methods and presented in percentages and frequencies with assistance of SPSS computer software programme and narrative form respectively. The study found that Presidential candidates and issues received varied attention from the moderators. The moderator subjected candidates significantly on the same questions to stimulate variance among the candidates. The moderators held candidates accountable to their remarks and highlighted the truth. However it was minimal. The moderators did not manage to give candidates strictly two minutes to present their policies on issues as they had stated. The same level of scrutiny of scandals basing on the magnitude was not applied to all candidates. Moderators gave more coverage to scandals they consider to be very critical. The debates addressed national issues that concern citizens. Variation in coverage of issues, scandals and attention accorded to candidates indicated that television coverage of 2013 presidential debate in Kenya to certain extent was unbalanced. The outcome of this study may benefit the presidential debate steering committee as it highlights the strength and weakness of moderation of the 2013 presidential debate in Kenya that can be based on to improve future presidential debates. It can be instrumental to the researchers and academicians in the view of the fact that it will provoke more intellectual research in the findings. Furthermore, it is hoped that this study will enrich the body of knowledge as well as addressing the main shortfalls in existing literature on the moderation and issues coverage of the presidential debates.