Christian radio and TV stations have increased in Kenya. Despite the rush for the frequencies, sustainability remains a challenge since management of these stations is limited by traditions which are outdated. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Christian radio and TV stations have increased in Kenya. Despite the rush for the frequencies, sustainability remains a challenge since management of these stations is limited by traditions which are outdated. [Photo/Amazon]

The media space in Kenya is not for the faint-hearted and it takes nerves of steel to venture into it.

With the liberalisation of the radio frequencies in the 90’s, several radio and TV stations have come up.

Boosted by the switch to digital broadcasting in 2016, the country has seen an upsurge of stations that are increasing the offerings and choices for Kenyans.

Misuse of Airwaves by Unscrupulous Individuals

In the space are a number of Christian radio and TV stations which are either backed by churches or individuals targeting larger audiences.

With the latest controversy surrounding the misuse of the airwaves by unscrupulous individuals, the Christian media outlets shave been put under the microscope to determine if they are observing broadcast regulations and requirements.

The latest tiff between the sector’s regulator, Communications Authority (CA) and Pastor James Ng’ang’a of Neno Evangelism Centre has been a focal point on how far these fairly new media owners are using the frequencies.

In Spetember, CA slapped the self-proclaimed evangelist with a fine of KSh1 million fine for violating broadcasting regulations.

CA Director of Public Affairs Chris Wambua said that Ng’ang’a was fined for airing indecent content on his Sasa TV.

CA accused Ng’ang’a’s TV of exposing a woman’s breasts in one of the services which was broadcast live during the watershed period.

Interestingly, Ng’ang’a has used the controversy to propel himself further. At some point, he mocked American Rapper Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. famously known as Snoop Doggy Dogg.

This is after Snoop Dogg mocked the Kenyan Pastor branding him a materialistic person.

The rapper shared a video of the pastor slapping a young boy on the head in a bid to exorcise him. The video was shared on social media in Kenya from where the rapper may have picked it.

While Ng’ang’a’s case is not an isolated case, many other individuals have started their TV stations to move away from the charges they incur if their content is broadcast on other channels.

Interestingly, most of these pastors were domiciled at Biblia Husema Broadcasting (BHB) which is one of the oldest Christian stations in Kenya.

Pastor James Okumu. He is back at Family Radio after a short disappearance. [Photo/James Okumu]

Hiring and Firing in Kenya’s Christian Media

With the increased freedom to broadcast, Christian stations are facing stiffer competition as more outlets join the fray.

Stations that have hitherto ‘monopolised’ the segment in Kenya are facing tough times as revenues shrink.

With the decamping of resources streams to start their own platforms, stations like BHB are struggling. Poor management, corruption and bureaucracy are some of the reasons the premier Christian stations have stagnated.

And the fortunes will not change any time soon unless the rigidity of the managers and those in charge is addressed. Changing tack is mandatory if the stations are to stay afloat.

Among the known and established Christian stations include Family Radio which has gone back to default settings and reclaiming its old name.

The station that broadcasts on 103.9 FM in Nairobi has been rebranded Radio 316 but it seems that this change did not bring in the listeners. The station has reverted to being Family Radio (316). Founded in late 90s, the station has struggled with retaining talent experiencing a high turnover in a sector that demands loyalty.

Just months after the morning presenter Pr James Okumu left in unclear circumstances, he is back to the morning slot. The breakfast show has been hosted by among others Tina Nzuki and Mike Gitonga who is now a show host at KTN.

Just a few months ago the station lost one of its long serving host Jackton Omusi to Hope FM.

Jackton is now co-hosting the breakfast show at Hope FM with George Gichuru who has been at the station for several years.

Cash Crunch Challenges for Christian Media

Family is struggling to stay afloat with campaigns like ‘Keeping Jesus on the Airwaves’ and while this is not unique to the station, others in the same league are also having to contend with the same issue.

BHB which broadcasts on 102.5 FM in Nairobi has struggled with the loss of revenues after most of the pastors who used to pay for airtime at the station started their own stations.

The station is supported by technicians from Diguna who maintain its transmitters and their offices in Nairobi, Lodwar and Kitale.

Despite this support, the station has faced an uphill task breaking even.

Its sister station, Truth FM 90.7, has managed to sustain its on air talent but with the frequency limitation to Nairobi, the station has failed to anchor among listeners outside the capital.

The station goes off-air severally as a back-up generator donated to address power failures fails at the most inopportune of times. Also, the signal quality has left the station with a struggle to attract and retain listeners. The TV station under BHB has also been struggling with poor programming and bureaucracy killing its potential.

As it is, Hope 93.3 FM seems to be the only radio station that is on track. While there are challenges with the running of the station that first went on air in 2003, the outlet has managed to create a mark among listeners and advertisers in Kenya.

Hope FM, however, lost their senior and long-time presenter, Justus Owaka, to Radio Africa’s Smooth FM which is embroiled in a copyright row with a British station by the same name. Owaka has nurtured a long-time dream of becoming a pilot and maybe Smooth FM will offer him the package to help him realise that dream.

The radio station also lost it breakfast show presenter Rawder Kidula who is newly married to Jackson Kedaha. Kedaha relocated to the US a few years ago having started the relationship with Kidula while they were both Hope Media employees.

The Kedaha’s. [Photo/Rawder Kidula Kedaha]

The unmistakable Christian station has birthed Hope TV which is laying its foundation in readiness for the ride that is media ownership and running in Kenya.

Launching Hope TV saw the CITAM-backed station poach talent from Family TV which lost its Head of Programmes John Paul. Paul took the reins at Hope TV as the Programmes Controller.

The station is, however, yet to make an impact in the space that is a playground for international stations like TBN which have offerings for the different market segments within the Christian audiences.

While money is not the only challenge threatening the existence of Christian stations in Kenya, lack of adaptable leadership is the biggest threat to their existence.

With changing times, the Christian media in Kenya has to wake up to the reality that their target audiences are also an enlightened lot. They will not hesitate to “change that dial” for stations that suit them and their tastes.

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