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.