Strengthening community radio identity and content

HIVOS/Kenya Media Programme(KMP) supported Kenya Community Media Network(KCOMNET) for a one year project (November 2013 – October 2014). The aim of the project was to strengthen the generation of community based content and programming in the existing community radio stations in Kenya.

25 participants drawn from the 13 Community Radios participating at the capacity building workshop on strengthening community radio identity held in Kivuli
Participating community radios

Radio Mang’elete in Makueni County; 2) Mug’ambo FM, Meru County; 3) Sauti – Hundhwe FM, Siaya County; 4) Rware FM, Nyeri County, 5) Mwanedu FM, Taita Taveta County, 6) Koch FM, Nairobi County,  7) Pamoja FM, Nairobi County, 8) Mtaani Radio, Nairobi County, 9) Baliti FM, Isiolo County, 10) Ekialo Kiona Community Radio on Mfangano Island, Homabay County, 11) Kakuma FM, Turkana county, 12) Bus radio, Kajiado county  and 13) Ghetto FM in Nairobi County.

Expected outcomes
  1.  Increased understanding on community radio concept, identity, principles and ethics by community radio practitioners
  2. Quality programmes  at the engaged community radio stations. This is assessed through a Quality Assessment Tool(QAT) for community radio programmes
  3. Enhanced capacities for community radio staff to develop and produce content generated from the target community.
  4. Improved capacities for community radio staff in skills on presentation, production and engagement  with social media platforms
  5. Increased institutional strengthening for KCOMNET to be able to guide the development and sustainability of community media sector in Kenya
Project Evaluation

Evaluation of the project by the partners, members of KCOMNET’s Steering Council and an external assessment indicated that the project has largely realised the expected outcomes. A two day evaluation meeting held in Nairobi by community radio partners and stakeholders indentified strategic interventions and action points for the project in the coming year.

Outcomes of the capacity building workshop on strengthening community radio identity

The objective of this workshop was to build the capacity of community radio practitioners in the development of content and programming generated from their communities that is unique to community radio identity. The workshop was held at the location of the newest community radio station in Kenya at the time, Mtaani Radio, based in Kivuli Centre, Riruta Satellite, Nairobi. This Capacity Building Workshop provided a platform to share experiences and identify best practices in programming and how they can be shared and enhanced.

The workshop brought together over 25 participants drawn from the 13 Community Radios in the country including stakeholders and partners from Media council of Kenya, UNESCO regional office for Eastern Africa, Cambridge University, Kenya Correspondents Association, FITI Resources among others.

The workshop was followed up by engagements at the location of the 13 community radio stations to mentor and train them further on the development of content and programming generated from their communities.

Findings and recommendations of the pre-status assessment

Preceding the workshop was the production of a pre-status report on the content and programming carried out by community radio stations and their means of engagement with their target communities.

The pre-status report has analysed the process of content generation and programming of the community radio stations in Kenya and sampled in depth the practice at three community radio stations: Baliti FM, Isiolo County, Koch FM, Nairobi County and Ekialo Kiona Community Radio in Mfangano Island, Homabay County. Findings of the report guided the capacity building interventions in this workshop.

Key findings 

  • Lack of audience surveys hence programmes not produced according to the needs of audience.
  • Gender mainstreaming was weak, More so, it was understood within the context of numbers rather than the societal roles and hence stereotyping.
  • Inadequate use of social media engagements and platforms
  • Limited radio production skills (i.e content sourcing, Interviewing, presenting, scripting, conducting audience surveys, production process, editing, sharing of pilot programmes and community engagement strategies).
  • Weak sustainability strategies (Institutional, financial and social sustainability).


  • Strengthening the understanding of the community radio concept, identity and principles.
  • Strengthening the understanding of  community radio as a medium for Communication for Development (C4D)
  • Training on the generation of community based content, programming and production skills.
  • Enabling better comprehension of gender mainstreaming amongst the community radio practitioners.
  • Strengthening the use of social media engagements and platforms
  • Institutionalise audience surveys and feedback mechanisms
  • Sustainability strategies, building partnerships and networking.

The discussions arising from the presentation informed the participants further on the uniqueness of community radio content and programming as contrasted with the private/commercial radio stations.

Community radio concept, identity and principles

Njuki Githethwa focused his presentation on the uniqueness, difference and ethics  of community radio vis-a-vis the private/ commercial broadcasters.

He started his presentation by quoting Zane Ibrahim, the pioneering founder of Bush Radio in South Africa who coined the much-quoted phrase that community radio is “10% radio, 90% community”, where 90% comprises of the content based on information needs of the community being served while 10% is anchored on the journalistic art of presenting what has been identified by the target community.

He further emphasised that community radio are born out of a struggle, a cause, or a desire to bring about change which are fronted by participatory communication strategies.

Other areas touched by Njuki’s presentation included the identity of community radio in Kenya as recognised by the country’s legal and regulatory frameworks and the principles recognised globally as pillars of community broadcasting (Community ownership and control,Community service, Community participation, a non-profit business model and independence). He also touched on ethical considerations for community broadcasting.

Kenyan laws and advertising for community radios; opportunities and challenges

This was a presentation on country’s legislation concerning community radios where different laws concerning media practice in Kenya were discussed. The soul touching topic was on how the law on practice of media in Kenya regulates community radio on commercial advertising.

At the end of the discussion two major ends were agreed, i.e. 1. Community radios can advertise but with limit to adverts that are relevant and specific to the community they are serving. 2. Community radios cannot engage in commercial advertising, but can take sponsorships for programmes as long as they are in line with the advertising policy/guidelines and advert strategies of the station.

The presentation  was done by Diana Mureithi, a lawyer and a consultant media policy advocate at KCOMNET

Radio programming

Wanjiru Kago guided participants on effective radio programming. She emphasized that appropriate radio programming is informed by content, appropriate timing and presentation skills. She advised the stations to agree on the programming timelines from the content demanded by the listeners and from frequent impact assessments.

She raised concerns on the mode of presenting radio show which she stressed have to resonate in all ways with the listener’s information needs and be presented in an appealing manner. She talked of a new emerging area of data journalism which involves telling of stories using data from field research.

Participants’ discussions after her presentation raised various concerns, such as availability of the audience, timing of programmes and on identifying themes that are pertinent in the community.

Wanjiru noted lack of proper scripting for radio programmes and clear record keeping in many stations. It was clarified during the discussions that the practice prevalent in many private/ commercial radio stations of interrupting normal programme schedule to slot in a paid – up advert was not the advertising acceptable for community radio stations. It was agreed that the best way to advertise for community radio stations is identify and package content that is relevant to the community and the target audience and source for programme sponsorships based on the content and the target audience identified.

Wanjiru Kago is a Programmes Officer, HIVOS/Kenya Media Programme

The audience, the king

Antony took the participants through an understanding of the audience: Definition, types of audiences,  profiling an audience  and elements of an audience survey. He said that the audience is king as they should be the target of effective radio programming.

Participants concerns were on issues around resistance to change by the listeners/ audience to matters that could affect their common perceptions and beliefs. Participants engaged in animated and interesting debates on who should be prioritized most, between the audience and sources of revenue. The debate settled with the agreement that the audience is imperative for without them, there is no way a radio can operate. Community radio should therefore tailor their programmes to community audiences.

Anthony Wafula is a Programme Officer, Kenya Media Programme

Radio production

Carolyne took participants through the process of producing top notch jingles for a radio station that are able to market the station and mark out its identity among others. She explained that production is a process which begins from ideas, sourcing of content, upto the airing of programmes. She shared various ideas and experiences of producing good jingles, signature tunes and promos in rounds of group work activities.

Carolyne also introduced DOCUSOUND, a project involved in production of audio documentaries that seek to change people’s aspects of social life. DOCUSOUND is currently in the process of partnering with community radios to air produced documentaries.

Carolyne Gachacha is a media consultant/Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Community radio; the big picture

Onyango gave a presentation on the role of radio and social activism. He shared his personal experience during the political struggle in Kenya in the 80s where he was arrested and jailed on charges of sedition for five years. Upon release from jail, he was forced to seek political asylum in Canada following the government’s crackdown on political activism. In Canada, he continued with human rights activism through a  campus community radio known as Radio CKUT 90.3 in Montreal.

Role of radio in social activism
In his presentation, he gave experiences of how community radio can be used as tools to shift social-political struggles. He revealed ways in which community radio can be used for social activism by re-telling everyday stories that impact on peoples’ lives. Participants expressed concerns that community radios could fall into the trap of political activism or be labelled as inciting the community which might lead to revocation of  broadcast license. To respond to these concerns, Onyango gave the example of a live radio program in which the struggles of a community and children are told through the eyes of a child.

Best practice experience
He shared experiences of fundraising strategies for the community radio in Canada in which it runs fund drives to raise money for its operations.

Onyango Oloo is a media consultant and social justice activist

Financial sustainability strategies for community radios

In his presentation, Dan explained that financial sustainability is crucial in the improvement of programming at community radio stations that would attract loyal listeners. It is the basis of ensuring the sustainability of all the other facets of community radio. This is important as community radio stations do not engage in commercial advertising.

He gave various ways in which community radio can raise financial resources, such as reaching out to corporates to support them through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSRs) activities. However, he cautioned that CSR activities should be in line with the principles and objectives of community radio. Community radio should avoid direct influence of the content and programming schedules by commercial interests to become advertising outlets.

Dan said that another way of pursuing financial sustainability is the contribution of volunteers. He emphasized that volunteerism should be encouraged at community radio stations for they also build up community ownership and participation.

He insisted that community radio should constantly communicate their objectives to their listeners in order to win their loyalty. This helps to build groups of dedicated listeners who can speak for the community radio and assist in fundraising efforts in what is commonly known as the bandwagon effect.

Dan said that making ICTs work for community radio is also a way of ensuring financial sustainability. This is enhanced by the improvement of ICT technologies and the integration of social media platforms in programming. However, he cautioned that ICTs should be in line with the objectives of the community radio and not to cloud out other active engagements with their listeners.

Dan Aduvate is the Executive Director at FIT Resources

Social media opportunities for community radio & launch of KCOMNET's website

In the world today, social media plays a very key role in communication. While community radios are generally predicated on broadcasting their content through radios using assigned frequencies, the social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, sound cloud, and websites are increasingly being used to reach some audiences especially those who are technology savvy. And even among illiterate populations, as well as those who cannot easily access internet, the mobile phones have become a key tool for communication.

To bring the participants up to speed with these developments, Amos gave a short presentation on how to blend emerging technologies (internet and mobile phones) with conventional programming for wider reach and gather of views and impact. He took participants though a demonstration of the wide array of social media platforms available and how they can be advantageous and cost effective in various programming formats and needs for the community radios.

Participants were in agreement at the end of the presentation that social media was very vital for community radios, bearing the impact and reach it has in communities, if they want to remain relevant. Some useful tools identified as vital for community radio include;

  • Facebook pages; for discussions, file sharing and engagements with listeners and other audiences.
  • Twitter for mobile phones with limited or no connectivity
  • Soundcloud for sharing recorded programs (podcasts)
  • Youtube for video sharing
  • Skype for remote/field interviews

Owing to the increased penetration of mobile devices, it was agreed that social media is easy to access, convenient to use and practically very low cost. The session ended with a brief demonstration of the
KCOMNET newly developed website and why it is important for community media practitioners to access it regularly. The website is now accessible at

Amos Ochieng-Programmes Officer, KCOMNET

Research and consultation of African citizens' views through radio and sms

Sharath together with other four researchers from The Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge are currently in Kenya to explore how interactive radio platform can be used for gathering and analysing people’s voices from across the continent.

In his short presentation, Sharath introduced the project, Africa’s Voices. Africa’s Voices is an applied research project combining interactive radio and mobile phones to gather citizens’ opinions on governance and accountability, livelihood, environment, gender issues among other local issues of concern. The project aims to develop into a collaborative platform on public opinion in Africa that informs African leaders, NGO’s and the wider academic community, and strengthen citizen participation in public affairs across the continent.

Africa’s Voices is in the process of partnering with Kenya Community Media Network to pilot the project in over 10 community radio stations in Kenya.

WEB LINKS: Twitter: @Africa’s Voices | Website

Dr. Sharath Srinivasan Director, Centre for Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge/Africa Voices project

UNESCO’s commitment to support community radios

Jaco DU TOIT gave brief remarks on the various ways in which UNESCO has for years worked with Community Radios in Kenya to enhance their capacity and to promote their activities. This has been realised through UNESCO’s project of enhancing ICT for Community Radios. He identified the role and the power of communication for social change through Community Radios’ which improves living standards in communities, decision making, governance and accountability.

Jaco commended the act of volunteerism as a great contributor to management and success of Community Radios, saying that UNESCO recognises the roles of volunteers and encourages more people to volunteer for the development of community radio stations. He mentioned that UNESCO and KCOMNET have jointly prepared sample draft of contracts for volunteers working at community radio stations. All stations are free to use the sample contracts.

He pointed out the need for innovations for community radios in their programming and stressed the importance for community radio to network and form partnerships. This would strengthen their capacities and quality programming, especially through innovative technologies such as social media platforms.

He stressed the importance of programming focused on local content development and the adherence to ethical journalistic standards for community radio. This can be enhanced through such trainings, mentoring and sharing of experiences.

Jaco concluded his remarks by thanking the organisers, hosts, partners and all participants for their commitment to support the development of community radio in Kenya.

Jaco DU TOIT, Advisor for Communication and information, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa

The role of Kenya Correspondents Association in uplifting standards of media workers in Kenya

Community radio journalists face many capacity challenges particularly around issues of legal protection, threats from people who are unhappy with their reports that uncover sleeze and corruption, and lack of the knowledge around the code of conduct/ ethics for journalists. Operating in an environment where they lack a strong voice of their own, the presentation of Oloo Janak, the Secretary General of the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) was most welcome, as they later observed.

Talking about the role of KCA, Janak observed that the association had been instrumental in building capacity of journalists in the country through curriculum development for the practice and also training on reporting of emerging trends like devolution which is at the centre of attention in the country. Noting that 70 per cent of national media content was a product of correspondents in field offices, he challenged community radios to generate good quality content (international, national or local) which must be relevant to the community. For instance stories of remittances from the diaspora and the views of Kenyans in diaspora could have an international angle but must be produced in a way that makes them relevant to the specific local community. This meant that there is need for more concentrated thinking and research that was required to produce good quality community radio content.

During his presentation, Janak emphasized the need for cooperation between community radios and KCA to uplift standards of community journalists in particular and media workers in general. He called on all community radios under the KCOMNET umbrella to take part in the policy legislation process of the new media bill which he expressed concerns of domination largely by the commercial media

William Oloo Janak, Chairman Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA)

Media Council of Kenya’s (MCK) commitment to building the capacity of community radio journalists in Kenya.

Victor Bwire gave welcoming remarks and a brief background of Media Council of Kenya (MCK) as the regulating body for the practice of media and journalism in Kenya.  He provided insights on effective content and programming at community radio stations in relation to media laws and ethics.

He informed participants that MCK was willing and ready to support community radio journalists with skills and practices relating to media ethics and safety of journalists. He noted from the discussions that many community radio journalists were not conversant with the code of conduct of the practice of ethical journalism in Kenya which also relates to them. He urged the community radio journalists to be accredited by MCK for ethics and quality control.

The emphasized the need for professionalism was emphasized, irrespective of whichever media one works for and adherence to what is provided by the laws and regulation of media in the country.

Victor thanked the organisers and participants of the workshop for the platform to share knowledge and experience. He pledged continued support by the MCK in areas of capacity building for community radio practitioners upon request.

Victor Bwire, Deputy CEO/ Programmes Manager, Media Council of Kenya.