Against the backdrop of his dismissal from Radio Africa Group-owned Homeboyz Radio, Shaffie Weru’s demand letter to his former employer got Kenyans talking as it revealed his salary.
In his role as a Programmes Controller and stand-in presenter at Homeboyz Radio, the media veteran was earning Ksh682,500 a month in gross salary. He sought Ksh22 million in compensation for what he considers unlawful termination – calculated by adding his one month’s pay in lieu of notice (Ksh682,500), twelve months’ salary for unlawful termination (Ksh8,190,000) and gratuity of one month salary for each year of service (Ksh12,285,000).
On social media, following the uproar over comments made on the Homeboyz breakfast show that landed him in trouble, conversation quickly shifted to his earnings, with many stunned by the figure he was taking home. Of course, Radio Africa soon slapped Shaffie with a counter-suit for Ksh150 million – accusing him of breaching his contract by disregarding media ethics regulation and the firm’s code of conduct.
One question Kenyans have been asking themselves is how Shaffie’s salary compares to other top earners in Kenyan media. And why was he earning so much?
Ratings & Advertising
For the management and stakeholders of leading Kenyan TV and radio stations, ratings is the name of the game. A key factor in determining the value of a presenter is their ability to guarantee a loyal base of listeners and viewers.
Over the course of his 18-year stint at Radio Africa which has ended in a legal battle, Shaffie was one of the most popular media personalities in Kenya, let alone radio. The ‘Raverend’, as he is also known, cut a niche for himself with his sometimes hilarious, sometimes brash takes on social topics of the day – and entrenched himself as a key figure in Kenya’s entertainment and events scene.
He boasts millions of combined followers across his social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He is a skilled presenter owing to his immense experience, having hosted some of Kenya’s most popular shows at Kiss FM alongside the likes of Kalekye Mumo and Adelle Onyango. It is this experience that saw him appointed Programs Controller at Homeboyz Radio, a managerial role entitling him to a higher salary.
High ratings translate to increased, more lucrative advertising deals, which are the bread and butter for many media houses. Advertising is what keeps the lights on. A figure like Shaffie is able to command a huge listenership – raising his value to the company.
To paint a picture of how lucrative the industry is, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on the outlook for media and entertainment in Africa (2017-2021) revealed that Kenya has the biggest radio advertising market in Africa and the Middle East despite its relatively small economy. The report predicted that by 2021, Kenya would generate more radio advertising revenue than Italy, a country with a bigger population and an economy more than 20 times larger.
It hasn’t been lost on observers, for instance, that an initial two week-suspension handed to Shaffie and his co-hosts DJ Joe Mfalme and Neville turned to a full-on dismissal after East African Breweries Limited (EABL) pulled ads from the show and condemned the trio, demanding Radio Africa take action.
Poaching of star employees is rife in the cut-throat media industry, a tactic often employed by media companies looking to boost ratings while dislodging their rivals from top spots. Media houses are forced to offer their star presenters the highest possible salaries to avoid them decamping to rivals.
The threat of moving to a different station is also a common negotiation tactic for popular media personalities looking to draw higher salaries.
For instance, DJ Joe Mfalme, who was also fired alongside Shaffie, is a much sought-after media and events DJ. He had barely been at Homeboyz for two months, having quit Capital FM in January after receiving an offer from Radio Africa.
Joe had been at Capital for 12 years making the switch a major coup for Radio Africa. In his statement announcing the move, Joe highlighted that he considered the move as an important step in his professional growth even as a section of his loyal listeners followed him to Homeboyz just for his mixes, proving his popularity and ability to draw ratings,
Neville also re-joined Homeboyz in December 2020 as part of an all-new breakfast show cast; alongside popular influencer Chebet Ronoh with the show helmed by Homeboyz stalwart G-Money.
He was returning home as it was at Homeboyz that his radio career took off before he was recruited by Capital FM.
Business Today, for instance, had reported in November 2019 how the poaching of talent from top media houses had created a rift at Royal Media Services, pitting old and new team members against each other.
Journalists who had been working at RMS before 2018 were reportedly concerned by the higher salaries awarded to the so-called ‘Dream Team’, a situation that was inevitable given they joined from leading media houses as RMS looked to shore up ratings.
Between March and July 2018, Royal Media had gone on a hiring spree – securing the services of the likes of Joe Ageyo (from KTN), Linus Kaikai (from NTV), Yvonne Okwara (news anchor, from KTN), Jamila Mohammed, Pamela Asigi, Rashid Abdallah and Nimrod Taabu (all from NTV).
Competitive Pay Packages
So, all things considered, media houses remuneration of presenters is hinged on the value they bring to the table.
A storm recently erupted at Royal Media Services (RMS) after a disgruntled employee sent a company-wide email blasting management and ownership over alleged disparities in salaries of different staff members. In the email seen by Business Today, the employee complained that top TV and radio presenters were earning six to seven figure salaries while producers and technicians among other important behind the scenes players were confined to salaries of between Ksh40,000 and Ksh80,000.
“How can a transmission technician handling 3-4 sites and working 24 hours 365 days without breaks earn Ksh50,000 while a news anchor or radio presenter is earning six figures in salary?” he posed in an expletive-filled rant, causing murmurs at the firm as many employees silently agreed with him.
Royal Media Services (RMS), being one of the country’s biggest media houses with brands including Citizen TV and Radio Citizen, is also one of the best-paying media houses in the country. It is well known for luring top talent from rivals and offering them higher salaries.
Highest Paid Presenters
It therefore comes as no surprise that a good chunk of the highest paid presenters in Kenya work at RMS.
When the firm slashed salaries by 20-30% at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, some of the leading presenters saw as much as Ksh300,000 shaved off their pay-slips.
Emmy-award winning Jeff Koinange, host of Jeff Koinange Live, is widely believed to be the highest paid presenter in Kenya with various estimates placing his pre-pandemic monthly salary at Ksh2 million.
Others earning over Ksh1 million at RMS include Strategy Director Linus Kaikai and Editorial Director Joe Ageyo.
Top presenters including Yvonne Okwara, Victoria Rubadiri, Rashid Abdallah and Lulu Hassan, on the other hand, reportedly earn over Ksh500,000.
At Radio Africa Group, Maina Kageni is one of the firm’s most important assets and also earns over Ksh1 million.
He is the long-time host of Maina and King’angi, one of Kenya’s most popular breakfast shows with some of the most expensive advertising spots on radio. Mwalimu King’angi (popular comedian Daniel ‘Churchill’ Ndambuki’), earns over Ksh500,000 on radio.
Mbusih, host of Radio Jambo’s drive show, is another top asset at Radio Africa and earns well over Ksh600,000.
He was poached from Ghetto Radio at the height of his popularity, having built a loyal audience and one of Kenya’s most popular reggae shows.