A gallery panel in a broadcasting studio

The latest GeoPoll TV ratings covering the period between February 1 and February 14 this year show that Inooro TV, a Kikuyu vernacular station commands 4% of the Kenyan audience, the same numbers commanded by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and 2% less than the numbers raked in by K24 TV, a mainstream media station.

Inooro TV which was launched in October, 2015 was part of Royal Media Services (RMS)’ diversification strategy informed by the cracking success of its vernacular radio stations stable and that of the first Kikuyu TV station, Njata TV.

Since its launch, Inooro has been so successful that the Kenyatta family owned Mediamax and Kirinyaga Woman Representative Purity Ngirici have launched their own vernacular TV stations, Kameme TV and Mt Kenya TV respectively.

These new stations have managed to eat into the viewership base of the mainstream channels.

According to GeoPoll statistics, Citizen TV, the most popular TV station in the country commanded 33.5% of the Kenyan audience between July and September 2016, at the moment it is a favourite of 26% of the Kenyan audience.

 

The GeoPoll Q3 2016 TV ratings

As a result, the ratings have translated into advertising revenue for the local stations with large and small companies knowing they can run their commercials and capture the attention of a specific type of audience.

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Statistics suggest that the vernacular stations are doing well enough to give the big boys a run for their money but as new generations continue to be ushered in, less people become adept at speaking or hearing their mother tongue, so what does that board for the vernacular stations?

Jamleck Wairegi, a news editor at Mt Kenya TV and a former senior political reporter at Inooro TV avers that the vernacular TV and radio stations will continue to be more popular even with the next generations because their target audiences resonate with the content that they produce.

“We have seen vernacular stations beat some of the mainstream stations and that is because the local stations are authentic and take people to their roots,” said Wairegi in a phone interview with Business Today “Young and old people are now preferring vernacular stations because the content produced by local stations has a direct impact in their lives,”

Vincent Ochieng, a media studies lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya (MMU) partly agrees with Wairegi saying that the content aired by vernacular stations is tailor-made for people who love their first language but opines that the stations will become less popular in the next generations.

“You will find that the vernacular stations treat their news to suit what affects the localities of the target audience and the things that the audience  values the most, in the case of the kikuyu community; land and farming but is inevitable that those stations will be phased out in the end,” Ochieng told Business Today.

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When RMS was launching Inooro TV in 2015, plans were in the pipeline to also launch Ramogi TV (dholuo station), Chamgei TV (Kalenjin station), Musyi TV (Kamba station) but it appears that the media group shelved the plans.

That could be attributable to two reasons: fear that Citizen TV’s audience would have been cannibalized and fear that they would not keep up competition with mainstream channels and would die eventually.

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