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Listeners need meaningful conversations on radio breakfast shows

By Janet Kipya, Eric Ndung’u and Vera Origa

Radio is a significant source of information, entertainment, and companionship for many individuals particularly in the morning. That is when folks tune in to the radio to get an early start to their day. Many will be commuting to work and what better way to pass the time in traffic than listening to their favourite personalities? Others, well, are chilling at home but in need of quality company.

However, there is growing concern that some shows stray away from meaningful discussions and resort to trivial matters, particularly love/relationships. Rather than providing informative and substantial content, the shows prioritise sensational and superficial topics, a disservice to their listeners.

Let’s consider the example of the breakfast show on Radio 47 hosted by Mkamburi Chigogo and Emmanuel Mwashumbe. This morning show aims to address significant issues that affect Kenyans. However, certain segments within the show seem to deviate from this purpose.

One such segment called Ghostica runs between 7am and 8am. During Ghostica listeners send complaints by SMS about individuals who owe them money or partners who neglect their parental responsibilities, among other issues related to love. The host then calls the person in question to discuss the issue in detail and attempt to find a resolution. However, these attempts often result in creating dramatic scenarios to keep listeners engaged rather than solving the problems. Following this segment, the host encourages audience participation by seeking their opinions on the matter.

Between 9am to 10am the show introduces another segment called Pararira, similar to Ghostica. For instance, one topic involved a woman seeking advice on whether she should inform her suitor about her child before getting married.

Another station that could benefit greatly from diversifying its content is the Catholic Radio Waumini, as Media Council of Kenya monitoring reports indicate. While it undoubtedly provides spiritual guidance through religious programming, there is enormous untapped potential for it to delve into a wide range of topics relevant to its listeners. The station could involve its audience in dialogues such as the relationship between church and the state, examining the church’s position on issues like cost of living and the widespread economic challenges that impact Kenyans from all walks of life. It could also highlight success stories of individuals or communities. By doing so the station can break free from routine programming on investment and relationships and explore more thought-provoking themes that truly engage listeners.

Radio Jambo should also limit its discussion on relationship topics evident through shows such as Patanisho and Toboa Siri, and engage more in topics that are informative, educational, and those that foster personal growth and encourage constructive discussions within the community. This will not only enhance the overall quality and impact of their programming but also position the station as a trusted source of valuable information, helping create a more informed and aware audience. The essence is to seek balance between entertainment and educative content.

The monitoring reports on mainstream radio stations have further shed light on the significant space that betting promotions have occupied in many vernacular stations’ morning shows.  Stations such Ene FM, Muuga FM, Milele FM, Ingo FM, Kameme FM, and Mbaitu FM have been particularly aggressive in marketing these promotions, often replacing the space for meaningful discussions. While the revenue generation potential of these promotions cannot be denied, it is crucial for radio stations to strike a balance between gaming and the primary essence of radio.

It is evident that Radio 47, Radio Waumini, Classic 105, Milele, Ene, Ingo, Muuga, Radio Jambo and Kameme tend to emphasise on trivial topics during their morning programming. However, it’s crucial to recognise that these instances are just a few among many. Where has the meaningful radio content gone?

One reason breakfast shows should change their content is because of their influence. They hold a prime position in radio programming, as they can capture the attention of listeners at the start of their day. This valuable airtime should be utilised effectively to inform, educate, and engage listeners on topics of significance.

Another crucial reason to consider is the impact on audience engagement. While focusing on love trivia and politics may attract a certain demographic, it runs the risks of alienating a wider audience that seeks ‘meaningful’ discussions. By neglecting vital subjects and substituting them with shallow topics, breakfast shows miss out on opportunities to truly connect with listeners and positively impact lives.

Spice FM has been a trailblazer in this, amongst others, with monitoring reports indicating selection of topics of public and human interest in the morning; a different topic each day and varying and qualified guests to demystify the topics. The station also frequently airs the morning show via YouTube, widening their reachThe audience is offered a variety of topics and guests to learn and enjoy content from.

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