Improving the financial sustainability of community radio in Kenya by enhancing community participation and collective marketing

Improving the financial sustainability of community radio in Kenya by enhancing community participation and collective marketing

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Introduction

Stem van Afrika through Catholic Media Council (CAMECO) supported Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET) for a 24 months project (January 2017 – December 2018) whose overall objective was to improve the financial sustainability of community radio stations in Kenya by enhancing community participation and collective marketing. The project was undertaken through two strategic engagements: (i) Facilitating the development and implementation on various key areas on community participation that enhance the financial sustainability of community radio starting with four community radio stations, and; (ii) Engaging Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET) in the collective marketing of community radio to improve the financial sustainability of the community radio in Kenya and of the network. 

Rationale

Community radios in Kenya, as elsewhere in Africa, are largely dependent on donors outside their communities for their survival. The overall objective of this project was to facilitate community radio in Kenya to focus on the communities they serve as the first sources of their incomes. Gaining the trust and confidence of the communities they serve by ensuring active community participation, especially in their governance, programming and financial transparency and accountability, are widely considered as key parameters in the efforts of ensuring the social, institutional and financial sustainability of community radio stations.

This project pursued the need for community radio stations to generate alternative income streams for their  financial health away from over-reliance on funding from donors. Improved financial health of the participating community radio stations continue to enable the participating community radios to offer vital communication services that they provide to grassroots communities.

This project was also intended to enable Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET) to market community radio stations in Kenya as a collective package beyond the reach of particular community radio. The idea of collective marketing for community radios is based on the experiences that almost all community radio stations in Kenya are grappling with the issue of raising funds for their survival, notably because of the regulations that prevent them from commercial advertising.  This, together with the smaller geographical coverage, has contributed towards their unpopularity among those who constantly engage in the business of advertising and sponsorship of programmes. It is also clear that few people/institutions really understand community radio stations and their roles and connections with the communities they represent. 

Achievements

Collective marketing of community as one package was one of the most promising engagement undertaken so far by KCOMNET. By end of the project reporting period, collective marketing engagements had managed to channel to community radios in Kenya by the end of August 2018 a total of Kenya Shillings 9,978,400(About 86,020 Euros). This is addition to strengthening the networking among community radios in Kenya as a movement for community media.

The 3 participating community radios, Koch FM in Nairobi, Serian FM in Samburu and Sawang’a FM in Laikipia that KCOMNET actively journeyed with to enhance their efforts on community participation and diversification of their marketing strategies also attained the expected results and are on the path towards attaining their financial sustainability. As reflected in the results framework of the partner community radios, this project enabled these radios to achieve key result areas, some of the being the following:

  • Initiated weekly meetings of the editorial team and of the management committee
  • Established a data base for listeners and sponsors
  • Increased their incomes
  • Localised their programs to address issues of local concern as a way of attracting more listeners and sponsors
  • Strengthened the management boards of their stations
  • Attracted new clients
  • Developed and/or completed Strategic and Business Plans

In particular, the strategic plan for Serian FM enabled the station to develop its first strategic plan since the inception of the radio station, ten years ago. Serian FM plans to officially launch this strategic plan in a public ceremony towards the end of 2019 to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the inception of the radio.

Next Steps

KCOMNET intends to enhance engagements in two crucial areas: Collective marketing of CRs and focus on audience research engagements.  Follow – up engagements in collective marketing has in sight the establishment of Kenya Community Media Marketing Agency. This will be a commercial  agency that will combine collective marketing CRs and an audience research desk at KCOMNET. Audience research will be enhanced through Training of Trainers(ToTs) for community radios and other community media outlets.

KCOMNET also plans to hold a three (3) days national conference on audience research. This conference will be the first for community media in Kenya. It will bring together representatives from community radios and stakeholders to share and discuss on the lessons and impact of audience research.  This will help in the scaling up of this project.