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Radio Monitoring: Issues, voices and performance of Mulembe FM

The Media Council of Kenya monitors radio stations on their performance and adherence to ethical guidelines.  This week we profile Mulembe FM, as compiled by our monitor who works remotely.

Mulembe FM is owned by Royal Media Services and targets the Luhya community together with those interested in the Luhya culture. The station broadcasts in a language understood by all the 17 sub-tribes of the Abaluhya.

They run social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) and the station is also available online https://rmsradio.co.ke/brands/mulembe-fm/. It broadcasts to Western Kenya on 89.6FM, Rift Valley on 94.0FM and Nairobi on 97.9FM. The target audience for Mulembe radio includes both male and female listeners seeking entertainment and information on socio-economic development (predominantly medium and small scale agricultural producers). They form the mass market. They are aged between 20-45 years and reside both in rural and urban areas.

Mulembe FM has consistent lively programmes which aim at empowering their audiences. The programmess are clearly segmented as follows:

Monday – Friday

  • 6am – 10am -Vukha Vushiele/ Mununjiro (meaning good morning) by Pastor Godfrey Ashiali, Kevin Obilo, Haggai Isanya and Chrispinus Juma
  • 7am, 9am, 1pm and 4pm –Amacheni muvurambi (news) by Kevin Obilo/Haggai Isanya/Chrispinus Juma
  • 8am, 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm – Amacheni muvwimbikiti (news headlines)
  • 8.30am – Health issues by Haggai Isanya
  • 10am – 1pm Tinyirira khukorokoro (Business news and audience calling) by Rosy Mutenyo and Stella Omusula
  • 1pm- 4 pm Baze yetu
  • 4pm – 8pm #Kalakala (slowly) by Pamela Kadima and Deacon Shifalango

 Monitoring findings

The morning radio shows mostly feature guests either through physical meetings in the studio or phone calls. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic most engagements with guests are done remotely. Most of the guests are drawn from the Luhya community. Those targeted have been hosted on the radio in the monitoring shows and include county and regional political leadership.

Members of the national and county assemblies, teachers, activists, trade unionists and youth leaders who hail from the region have been hosted. Others include educationists, religious leaders and artists.

A few non-Luhyas have also hosted in the radio shows, notably:

Kimbu Senator Kimani Wamatangi who spoke on revenue allocation on August 12, 2020 and National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo who was hosted on September 22, 2020 to speak on reopening of schools

Caller engagement

Initially, in some cases callers were allowed to ask guests questions directly but currently they are allowed to use a contact line then the question is put to the guest by the presenter.

Most of the callers are same people, mostly men, and there is a need for the station to consider measures to ensure the gap on gender is addressed. The presenters are well represented in terms of gender. There are so many adverts that run at close intervals in the shows.  These include Skiza tunes and betting where winners are announced intermittently.

The presenters are keen on any news trending or emerging/breaking which they broadcast immediately. During caller engagements they are very keen on the language used by show participants.

The popular topics during the monitoring period were:

  1. County revenue allocation
  2. Medics strike
  3. Covid-19 pandemic
  4. BBI
  5. CDF and infrastructure in schools
  6. State of the economy
  7. Luhya/Western politics

Some interesting quotes picked from the monitoring notes include:

“Corona has provided an opportunity to parents/guardians and by now they need to have learned their children’s behaviour.”

“Since Covid-19 pandemic started people have died, many companies closed rendering more people jobless and thus mass exodus to the villages/rural areas. This has led to increase in population and is resulting into many vices including teen pregnancies.”

“There is a toll free line for NACADA (1192) which listeners were advised to use in case of any issue on drug abuse/alcohol or illegal and harmful substances that children could have access to.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise as the national government has supported county governments in putting up health facilities and infrastructures especially ICU and beds.”

“The current Grade 4, Standard 8 and Form Fours will start their third term on January 4 and finish in March and it is expected that exams will be done on March 19, 2021 and marking of the same will be done in end of March to early April 2021.”

“Nuvula mundu wuwo muvwami sholia tawe”, quipped MP for Lurambi Titus Khamala meaning that if you don’t have your people in leadership you won’t eat/ get development. “So as Luhya we must fight to get to the leadership positions.”

The hosts were keen enough not to let callers use abusive language on the show as the topic was on BBI politics where there are factions in the Western region that support and those that oppose. Mr Kevin Obilo had quipped that the BBI process was a defining moment for Kenya as a country but was skeptical that Luhyas would benefit. “Central Kenya people were ahead because they knew what was in it for them, but our leaders in Western were asleep” he said. (Recorded on January 6, 2021.)

Conclusion

Radio remains popular in Kenya. Their content is therefore of keen interest to not just listeners but also to critiques. It is clear in this case of Mulembe FM that politics and political contestation surrounding BBI took centrestage. Covid 19 was a necessary topic which enhanced conversations on Kenya’s health sector.

It is observable that hosts and moderators are exercising care deliberately making sure live shows are moderated to prevent unnecessary animosity/conflicts. This is in adherence to the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism. As a result there were no incidents of hate speech observed.

Besides, this being a radio station targeting a single community, it important to note, without this kind of reports emanating from monitoring, the conversations will remain restricted to those audiences. It is a commendable that Mulembe radio hosts made an effort to invite guests from other communities.

(Report compiled by Boaz Mugoto).

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