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How not to do TV: A case of the ‘brand new’ 5th Estate TV

Political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi’s 5th Estate, the weekly horoscope on Kenya’s politics, is testing how not to do TV. Everything is wrong.

But that’s Okay. Turns out that Mr Ngunyi doesn’t care to get out of the gate looking good. He is deploying “young and raw talent; no experience needed,” according to the debut tweet March 20 under his account, @MutahiNgunyi.

Until now, the 5th Estate has been a YouTube channel. Every week, the channel has featured Mr. Ngunyi — he of the Tyranny of Numbers fame that accurately predicted why Uhuru Kenyatta would win the 2013 General Elections – dishing out abrasive political analysis that frequently finds its way into mainstream media. It has 62,000 subscribers and 14 million views.

The format has been standard: it opens with Mr. Ngunyi’s “students” at “Fort Hall School of Government” using all sorts of tall tales to opine about the week’s hot button political topics. Practically every show is about the presidency. Or Kenya’s top three leaders that most sway the nation’s political debate: President Uhuru Kenyatta; Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and; Deputy President William Ruto.

Then, the cameras usually swing to Mr. Ngunyi, the sage. Gravely, he gives the country a “you-can-take-this- to-the-bank” prediction of where politics is headed. A disclaimer at the end of each episode says: “The names, characters and opinions in this production are hypothetical […].”

According to a March 21 story by Business Today titled, “Mutahi Ngunyi joins forth estate with 5th Estate TV station,” testing for TV started on March 6. Recorded programmes continue to show in uninterrupted loop on Startimes Channel 186, GOtv channel 888 and free to air Pang TV.

Last weekend, three of the “Fort Hall students” were on TV doing newspaper reviews. And begun the show of all things wrong.

First, the set. It is a clutter of clashing colours and things. Maroon, black and multiple shades of blue are the most prominent. The colour clash is jarring, a decided distraction from show presenters and content. But what do we know; a Youtube viewer called Mike Kibiego left this comment last Saturday: “love the studio design. Looks 10 times better than ANY of the big stations!”

In front of each presenter, a vintage retro dynamic “Larry-King” mic in screaming red was in your face. You knew immediately that they were dead mics, because prominent on each of the presenter’s lapels, a real mic was strapped.

Then, the demeanour of presenters. The three hosts were supposed to be debating each other. But nobody told them that when you debate, your body language should show you’re debating fellow panellists, not a camera. All three kept stealing armature glances at the camera. They didn’t know if to speak with each other or to the camera. If they had a producer to whisper directives and cues in their ears, somebody should start with training that producer.

Then, the attire. It appears nobody told the hosts what not to wear on TV. The host at the centre stage had a pink shirt the texture of Sukuma Wiki. It was creased sideways, top to bottom and zigzag.

The host to the right of the screen, she of large pendants, had a huge, shiny triangular pendant resting on her chest. When the lights hit the pendant, a sharp, dazzling glare hit viewers.

The host to the left, poor soul, she kept getting awkwardly blocked out with pop-ups of the newspaper being reviewed. The newspaper would suddenly get flung up digitally, stretching the entire height of the screen and taking out this host, plus shoulders of the centre-stage host.

Then, the content. The show was titled, Media Police Post. The quality of debate on selective stories was – how shall we put this – pedestrian.

One story in the Star talked about questionable, sudden wealth surrounding some state officer. A picture of a big house accompanied the story. And the centre-stage presenter blurted out:

“If I stole that kind of money, I would not own a house like that. If I stole that kind of money and owned a house like that, I would surrender myself!”

If that was meant to be satire, it was not. That’s not just pedestrian talk on national TV, it’s unconscionable. It glorifies theft.

7 thoughts on “How not to do TV: A case of the ‘brand new’ 5th Estate TV”

  1. You observed well, I like what they are doing, simply swimming against the current. Thank you enlightenment to.

  2. Look, I love the station. It’s informative, educative and entertaining. Its programmes are one of a kind, beginning with Unauthorized biographies, then Our Final Thought, where books are meticulously analysed and knowledge brought to the fore. Where else could I watch such invaluable content? However, if you’re a fan of Afro Sinema and DJ Afro and the kind of one sided brown envelope media, you won’t like it. 5th Estate challenges the mind. If you’ve an affinity for knowledge as I do, then 5th Estate TV is where to be.

  3. Do not despise humble beginnings my friend, especially when great minds come together like in the 5th Avenue .

  4. Ur view is right. 1 thng u however failed to mention is the content thereof. Unlike most channels, those young boys and girls spew alot of knowledge. They challenge ur mind to read more. I however hate the bit that they are on the govts side while hating on those who oppose govt

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