Radio salaam, one of the most popular radio stations in Mombasa, has been suddenly shut down, leaving the jobs of over 50 employees, including journalists, hanging in the balance. The Station, owned by Garissa Senator Yusufu Haji, went off air yesterday evening, Friday 11th November 2016, after the management switched off transmission.
A memo sent to all staff said the radio station has been closed for three days for maintenance of its studios and transmitters but asked staff not to report to work until further notice, signaling a different motive of closure. According to the Memo obtained by BusinessToday, employees will stay away until they are contacted to come back.
“We will be carrying out maintenance of our studios and transmitters for three days starting today (Friday Nov. 11th) at 5PM, therefore we will be off air for the entire period,” said the Memo. “Due to this, we are advicing (sic) all staff take temporary off starting today till the time we will contact you.”
This statement has raised fears that Radio Salaam could be closing for good, or perhaps in the process of changing hands. The Islamic radio station has been having financial problems and last year sacked about 20 employees.
About 20 journalists who work for the station as reporters, anchors, programmers and editors have been affected and fear they may have lost their jobs. But their fate will be known from Monday when maintenance is expected to be complete.
People familiar with Radio Salaam operations say it has been struggling to make money over the past few years and the situation worsened this year, forcing it to relocate its offices and studios from the more prestigious TSS Plaza to the nondescript Baluchi Complex near Tarbush hotel in the CBD.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” a journalist with Radio Salaam told BusinessToday on phone. “We just saw the memo. I think it has closed. We have been having financial problems.”
It is understood that the radio station, established in 2006, has not paid salaries for the past few months. Its transmission in Nairobi was switched off recently, in what is linked to inability to settle frequency fees. Radio Salaam is among the popular radio stations at the coast and competes against others like Baraka FM, Pilipili FM, Radio Rahma and Pwani FM among others.
Media analysts say its purely Islamic niche audience could have worked against its fortunes, locking out a huge chunk of advertising from other faiths such as Christians, the second most popular religion in the region.
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If it closes it will join Nation Media Group, which closed all its three radio stations in June citing high operational expenses and low revenues, leaving over 100 employees jobless. NMG closed Swahili radio station QFM, Nation FM and KFM in Rwanda to stream transmission online. It also merged its QTV with NTV.
Broadcast media has been facing tough times as competition grows, especially from more established brands and newer digital channels. Most radio stations are not making money, including a number of vernacular radio stations under Royal Media, which also fired over 100 employees early October.
Radio Africa Group, which owns five radio stations including Classic FM, Radio Jambo, Kiss FM and East FM, has found itself in a financial quandary, relying more on Classic FM and Radio Jambo as the rest are not attracting more viewers and bankable advertising.