June 28th 2017

Media / Watchdog

On Kenya's radio stations, politicians own the message

S.K. Macharia is the most recognized media owner in Kenya, with full ownership of the Royal Media Services. Deputy President William Ruto, opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula, among other also own radio stations.

By Liza Makenalmakena@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 07 Mar 2017 11:37 EAT

Businessman S.K. Macharia, the owner of Royal Media Services.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is among top politicians who have ventured into ownership of Television, radio and print media houses on realizing how important they are in shaping their political images. However the link to media houses comes in different ways, either by acquiring established stations, creating new ones or even befriending top managers and editors in certain media houses. The 'positioning' has spared no side of the political divide.

Uhuru, through TV Africa Holdings, acquired the People Daily newspaper from Kenneth Matiba and Rose Kimotho's media max which initially owned Kameme FM. Back in 2007, TV Africa had bought STV from veteran retired Journalist Hilary Ng'weno. STV airs foreign news but speculations that it can be rebranded into a local stations are rife. It is not clear the percentage ownership in K24 and Kameme, but it clear the percentage is enough to give him live coverage, or to even fire journalists who fail to tore the line.

Retired President Daniel arap Moi’s family is the largest shareholder in Standard group, owning KTN, Standard newspaper and lately Radio Maisha. The other shareholders are Joshua Kulei and some very minor shareholders. Whoever gets Gideon’s favour is expected to leap the benefits but the likelihood of Raila been the one are very minimal considering his history with the old Moi.

Businessman S.K. Macharia is definitely the most recognized media owner in Kenya, with full ownership of the Royal Media Services that runs Kenya's leading television channel Citizen TV and over ten radio stations including vernacular ones. Deputy President William Ruto, opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula, among other also radio stations.

Patrick Quarcoo, popularly known as PQ, is a Ghanaian Kenya-based serial entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Radio Africa Group, which is an umbrella of among Kenya's leading media channels on print, digital, TV and radio. This include KISS 100, Classic 105,  X FM, Radio Jambo, East FM, the Star newspaper and KISS TV. 

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the state-run media organization of Kenya. It broadcasts in English and Swahili, as well as in most local languages of Kenya. The corporation started its life in 1928 when Kenya was a British colony. In 1964, when Kenya became an independent country, the corporation's name was changed to Voice of Kenya. In 1989, the Kenyan parliament reverted the corporation's name from Voice of Kenya to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

Talking about the regional or vernacular stations in Kenya, we find that there are over 100 stations in Kenya. Royal Media Services has also carved a niche in vernacular programming with the group now owning nine local language radio stations namely Inooro (Kikuyu), Ramogi (Luo), Mulembe (Luhya), Musyi (Kamba), Muuga (Meru), Chamgei (Kalenjin), Egesa (Kisii), Wimwaro (Embu), and Bahari FM (Swahili and Mijikenda) owned by S.K Macharia.

Mr Odinga owned an uptown FM station, Radio Umoja, which targeted the youth. The station has since closed due to financial problems. A political ally of Raila who is also the Parliamentary chief whip, Jakoyo Midiwo, owns Lake Victoria FM, while Mr Musyoka owns a Kamba FM radio station named Athiani FM. 

Charity Ngilu owns Mbaitu FM/SyoKimau, a Kamba FM station broadcasting in upper Eastern Kenya. The two stations are playing a major role in her Kitui gubernatorial campaigns. Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala bought Sheki FM and PiliPili FM, the station veteran broadcaster Tony Msalame founded. 

Ali Mwakwere owns Kaya FM, which he is expected to aggressively use when he seeks gubernatorial seat from Kwale County. John Mututho owns Countryside FM which was previously known as Bahasha FM. As a Nakuru gubernatorial candidate, the station would be in handy during his campaigns. Henry Kosgey, the former cabinet minister who is vying for Nandi governor seat, owns One Fm.

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