Once upon a time, there was only one TV channel to watch, and this channel did not air for 24 hours as we are so accustomed to these days. When it was off air all you would see when you turned on the television were color bars running across the screen. And we would sit and watch those color bars with great intent wishing with all our might that by some fluke, an interesting program would be aired. At least, I did.

Well, the times have surely changed. Now we have so many channels available, we are almost spoiled for choice. Almost.

Generally, the purpose of television is to disseminate information impartially, provide wholesome entertainment, as well as the socio cultural purpose which would work to bring unity as a state. Well, Kenyan television tries it’s very best to achieve the first two but what about the latter?    

In a majority of the TV stations broadcasting in Kenya, 6pm to 9pm is what I like to refer to as ‘Latino Hour’. Apart from the 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock news, this time is usually taken up by soap operas outsourced from the Phillipines and Mexico. The popularity of these soaps, as we call them, never ceases to amaze me. The plot line usually comes across as too dramatic to be true, in my opinion, and the story always seems to be the same. Nevertheless, the cult following these programs have received, especially from the fairer gender of the population, has broadcasting houses on their toes, looking for more programs to satiate this ever-growing demand.

6pm to 9pm are prime time slots. This is the time people have just gotten home from work; kids have just come in from playing and have already done their homework. This is the time that a majority of Kenya is sitting down to watch television. Is this really the time for Jose Maria to discover that her child is no really her child and that the man she loves is actually her brother? The Kenyan film industry is one that is showing steady growth and one thing it needs is exposure. Why not give this great platform to Kenyan programs? Let us hear stories from our country, which we can relate to.

I would be biased not to appreciate the networks that are actually putting an effort towards this by airing shows such as Beba beba, Mali, Lies that Bind, Machachari, Tahidi High, The Classmates, Papa Shirandula, Mheshimiwa and many others. Looking at the generation that will be brought up by such shows, they will be more in touch with the country and its issues, rather than those of us who grew up with a daily dose of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ , which for some reason, is still airing.

I love when I’m flipping through channels and I land on KISS TV, to find them airing a movie that’s in a Kenyan language or even in English, just as long as they are Kenyan. We have great filmmakers in Kenya. We should encourage them by appreciating their work and spurring them on. So instead of bringing Afro-cinema every night, set aside about half the time and air Kenyan movies. Kujenga nchi does not necessarily mean wearing a suit and tie every morning. Sometimes, it means supporting other Kenyans in their endeavors.


9 thoughts on “The evolution of Kenyan television: A case for local content

  1. hey Barbra ! I loved reading your posts. I think we all went through the love-hate relationship with soaps; watching and wondering why you’re even watching.
    its great to note where we have come from in terms of shows, isn’t it? its like ‘changing times’ grew up to be ‘Mali’. great progress!

  2. As much as we want to give a platform for local productions we should come up with stuff with good content and quality that’ll make the viewer opt for it

  3. Content in Kenya is in abundance and quality is very much, although not wholly, dependent on funds.

    We have stations like kiss paying a mere 50k for a movie. if you are conversant with production, that is peanuts.

    Between equipment hire, transport, catering, paying for talent and crew,it would require a miracle to come up with anything that could hold it’s own with that amount.

  4. @Nuru those were the days ..
    @ Kim, but you have to give it up to the industry ; it has grown! its not Hollywood but its something we can be proud to be associated with.
    @Eugene, I see your point there, but people have to start somewhere, don’t they?

  5. I think the industry is above and beyond what we are allowed to see, they air mexican soaps in English but a Kenyan show in english is not Kenyan enough! Speaking from experience btw! Look up the trailer to Two sides tv series and the rush on youtube and tell me if the quality does not make you want more

  6. Nice idea. Designate the 6 – 9PM period for local productions.. Linus Gitahi once spoke of the popularity of the Latino productions, and that ‘Mali’ was NMG’s Kenyan-made soap production to reach the same audience

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