State of Media

The Nation Media Group yesterday launched NTVin the latest round of media moves. Nation Media have been considered to be cheapskates in broadcasting – grooming and then loosing talent to better paying KTN and other radio stations – which left the Nation short on newsroom talent especially interviewers and business news. Now the tide has turned, and ever since Nation hired away Ian Fernandes from KTN late last year, he also arrived with several KTN reporters and editors in tow. They now have people capable of covering business news, conducting interviews and hosting news magazine shows (they already have lined up a new show for Julie Gichuru who started yesterday – to be called The 4thEstate airing on Thursday at 9:30 – that will compete directly against KTN’s Newsline).

They have put their outside broadcasting van to great use, beaming pictures of the Sudan peace talks, rugby, Harambee Stars soccer matches, and even boxing, which has made Congestina Achieng star in Kenya (despite not fighting any credible opponents so far).

As for radio, Nation FM will find it harder to overhaul KISS given that radio presenters are notorious for their lack of loyalty. Nation is available around the country, but trail KISS in the all-important Nairobi region.

This is a bright spot for the Nation as their re-launched “True Love” is doing well, appears to have surpassed “Eve” as the magazine of choice for Kenyan women – and is far ahead of Cosmopolitan Kenya, which was launched at about the same time. However Drum (aimed at young men) has failed to capture its glory of the 1970’s, even after cutting the price from 150 to 100 shillings. Nation will not hesitate to pull the plug on a project which does not achieve their expectations – they pulled the plug on the weekly Coast Express last month.

The Group spent a great deal of money luring top editors from the Nation over the last two years, and have scored some major gains since. They have revamped the newspaper several times, changing the layout and adding magazine pullout sections on most days of the week. Sunday Standard has many exposes that become talking points for the country, but on most days, they still trail the Nation in sales. Also frequent brushes with the government have led to less advertising revenue.

Still the number one TV station, and the only station putting together quality news magazines and interview shows. However most of these programming decisions were all made during the Fernandes era.

According to the Financial Post, the Standard newspapers are shopping for a radio station (could be KISS FM?)

Kiss FM
Still the leading FM radio station, but except for the morning show, wires are coming loose elsewhere with presenters engaged in musical chairs, and the station has drawn the ire of the government and “moral parents” one too many times. Listen to Crossfire on Sunday evening and you can almost hear MD Patrick Quarco restrain his guests from stepping on some powerful toes.

Capitol FM
Significant presence in Nairobi, and now Mombasa, but has become a major ego trip for new owner, DJ CK, who seems to micro-manage the station.

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
Did a very expensive rebranding in 2003 and morphed into Channel 1. However this has not translated into significant results for the TV station whose main draws are still foreign shows – Champions league soccer, soap operas, and wrestling shows.

Citizen/Royal Media
The Rodney Dangefirled of media, Citizen radio and television get no respect despite their almost nationwide reach. While the new KBC has broken away from their government association of years past (where they were seen as an extension of the presidential press unit), Citizen TV has embraced this role to become the unofficial government cheerleaders. On weekends, you can catch interview-shy people like Raphael Tuju, and Dr. Alfred Mutua, sit-down for hour-long chats as soft questions are lobbed at them.

Kenya Times and People newspapers
Both are struggling, and with little presence on the street. If either of them goes under, they will make the other stronger and more credible as a true 3rd alternative to the big two (Nation & Standard) – so each will try its best to survive for as long as possible. Nothing would please S. K. Macharia (Citizen owner) more than to buy the Kenya Times from KANU or People from Kenneth Matiba. Still the newspapers have razor thin budgets, and the little advertising they get from various Government departments (when the Standard and nation offend some powerful people) may actually be more than enough to sustain them.

Tabloids: are newspapers too
The Citizen has become the premier tabloid in Kenya through a mix of sober writing and also being published regularly. They don’t break a lot of stories, but their in-depth analysis of news (after reading the Sunday papers) adds dimensions to stories that other newspapers can’t print. They also have good coverage of stories in town outside Nairobi. (often scooping mainstream newspapers) especially in Western Kenya.

Other tabloids like the Independent and Kenya Confidential have erratic printing schedules, and often do not appear on some weeks. Independent, which surprisingly raised its price form 20 to 30 shillings, relies on wild headlines that frequently don’t lead to any story on the inside. Kenya Confidential has some revealing stories (which have got the paper in trouble) and actually print a lot of leaked government documents in full.

3 thoughts on “State of Media

  1. Afromusing

    Asante for this! on the soft questions lobbed at the shy likes of tuju, there is a dude who calls such journalists whiffleballers 🙂

  2. Jua

    Thanks for this insights..Allow me to add something about KTN=I am deeply pertubed by the rate they are ‘killing’ their own very good productions. Case in point-ARTSCENE=>the gentleman who used to produce and present the show is no longer on the show..the quality of that show went down it now is finished. I wonder where the guy is?International standards were evident on that show I hope KTN can bring back that show and let’s see more of this guy’s creativity and style!

  3. Anonymous

    thanks for you wonderful article…
    I live in USA and there is a magazine project that a group of guys over here want to start… if you will be willing to assit us with information please email me at

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