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‘TAHIDI HIGH’, ‘MALI’, ‘LIES THAT BIND’, ‘TABASAMU’, ‘MOTHER-IN-LAW’, ‘MACHACHARI’… KENYA’S LOCAL TV PRODUCTION NOW GETS PRIME TIME

Abel Mutua, Tahidi High’s bad boy ‘Freddie Baraka

Locally produced television productions are gradually becoming popular among Kenyans as viewers come to appreciate home-grown shows more and more. It has been a long journey along this road but there encouraging signs that Kenya-made television programmes are getting better and more popular as time goes by.

FOREIGN DOMINATION – LOCAL TV WAS FOR HICKS

This trend follows years of foreign content domination for the simple reason that it was better produced and more interesting compared to our own productions.

During the 1990s it was regarded as laughable if someone mentioned a local program as one of his/her favorites and such person would be called a “mshamba”, a word used for a country hick. This was so because local programmes were mostly popular in the rural areas where people could only view one channel, KBC, which mostly aired local programmes. In the urban areas, especially Nairobi and its environs, people had several channels to choose from. There was KTN, NTV, and KBC among other channels. Apart from KBC, these other channels were mostly dominated by foreign produced programmes which were more popular among the urbanites.

KENYAN TV NOW BETTER QUALITY AND CONTENT

There are many factors that have contributed to the improvement in Kenya’s local TV production. When you look back years ago, locally produced programmes were extremely poor in all aspects – the quality of production and standard of content. Fast forward to the present and it is totally different as we now see much better quality TV productions almost competing with our counterparts in the West. This has captured the attention of the hard-to-impress Kenyan viewers which is quite an achievement.

The result has been popular shows such as Tahidi High, Mali, Lies that Bind, Tabasamu, Mother-in-Law and Machachari.

Though we still have a long way to go, we can confidently say that TV-production wise we are on the right track.

KENYAN TV PRODUCTIONS GET PRIME TIME… AND ACTORS GET PAID

In part we have Kenyan TV stations to thank for their contribution towards promoting local

The cast of Citizen TV's Machachari

programmes, airing more locally made shows and even giving them a piece of the prime time. Investors and sponsors unlike also began to invest seriously in the TV industry which has resulted to better quality productions and better pay for actors.

Nowadays entertainers can take acting as a full-time career because it is now paying fairly well compared to the past when actors had to look for other sources of income as the pay was very poor.

ABEL MUTUA – “A HUGE STEP”

Abel Mutua, actor and star of Citizen TV’s Tahidi High (he plays bad boy ‘Freddie Baraka’), recently spoke optimistically of the future for Kenyan TV productions. “We haven’t really reached there yet,” he said, “but we are coming up. At least I can gladly say that from the prime time (in Kenya the prime time is around 7.30pm to 8.00pm), at least we have a local programme in all the stations at that time. It’s a huge step”.

“There was a time”, said Mutua, “that the only local programs were Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi in KBC, but now especially Citizen TV is really trying to make sure that at least we have something local everyday from Monday to Sunday. That’s a huge step, and through that we are getting a lot of new productions and guys are getting jobs.”

PIRACY HELPED!

Oddly enough another factor that has contributed to improvement in local TV production in terms of viewership, is piracy.

With the growth of internet connections, foreign programmes and movies are now easily downloaded for free or bought for only Ksh. 50 on the streets. Most viewers now don’t have to watch series programmes on TV because they can easily download them and watch them any time they wish. This has forced TV stations to turn to local programmes because they were losing viewers thanks to piracy. Though piracy is illegal, it has undoubtedly contributed to the rise in local programmes being aired in local stations during prime time.

Though the Kenya Forum still critical of the standard of production in some of locally-made programmes we are happy to see the positive developments where local TV production is concerned. We believe that there is more and better to come in the near future.

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