Kenya Television Network
Kenya Television Network (KTN) is one of the leading television stations in Kenya with its headquarters located along Mombasa Road Nairobi, at the Standard Group Centre Nairobi. It was founded in March 1990 by Jared Kangwana and was the first non-pay privately owned TV-station in Africa, and the first to break KBC's monopoly in Kenya. KTN became famous for Activism Journalism in the 1990s, developing a sophisticated, aggressive and unique style news coverage, and has continued with the same hard line stance, issues-based reporting to date, branding itself as the 'authoritative and independent' news channel. KTN became the model for some governments in Africa when they allowed media liberalisation to take place in the late 1990s. Many of the new radio and TV stations across East and Central Africa not only relied on KTN as a model, but benefited directly in terms of recruiting former KTN staff to run their operations.
Since 1990, Kenya Television Network has offered a mixture of relayed re-transmission of Cable News Network (CNN) programming, business and entertainment, as well as MTV, and European, American and Australian programming, in addition to programs developed in other African states. KTN also filed stories for use by affiliated foreign stations. KTN reporters doubled as foreign correspondents and news sources for CNN World Report, BBC, and VOA. Transmitting on the UHF channel, KTN started out as a pilot project for a 24-hour subscriber TV service in Nairobi and its environs, but abandoned plans to scramble its signal and for most of the 1990s derived its revenue from advertising and TV production services. Founded by Jared Kangwana, its early success attracted bids for joint ownership by London-based Maxwell Communications, by South African MNET, and by the then ruling party Kenya African National Union (KANU).
The station won the bid to carry the 1992 Olympics, as well as the rights to several other international events. The negotiations for global television rights to the 1992 Olympic festivals in Albertville and Barcelona marked the first time that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had exercised complete authority over financial discussions with the world's television networks. KTN has proven adept at competing internationally against other media corporations. Effectively, the competition represented KTN forced the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Service, as well as other stations in neighbouring African states to improve the quality of programming.
While Jared Kangwana had plans to expand KTN, and had built new facilities to house the station, he allowed free rein to KTN's news division. Then ruling party KANU functionaries are said to have frequently called the newsroom and editors on behalf of the state-president of Kenya Daniel arap Moi, to demand the spiking of KTN news stories. Such control was said to have been sanctioned by Moi himself, who had developed the habit while he was still vice-president under state-president Jomo Kenyatta. As vice-president, Daniel arap Moi had grown used to making regular calls to the offices of The Standard which was foreign-owned at that time, and to other media outlets, to demand that they drop stories or modify them. The practice was revived when KTN was established.
Nonetheless, the success of KTN inspired Africans. As a result, several independent productions were set up in Kenya to generate programs to service both KTN and KBC,.. as well as other stations that were to be established. Many of the exile communities from neighboring African states relied on KTN to air their concerns. The station fostered a marked change in the urban culture of Kenya as well...
The vast majority of beneficiaries of the growth of KTN were the music and theatre industries, as well as the African fashion industry that benefited from the improved media culture. Nairobi, already the hub of the East and Central African region, became even more fashionable, hosting more international events and trade shows, and attracting more tourists from all over the world. The quality and popularity of programming at KTN was remarkably exceptional, even by international standards. In these early years, Kenyan commercials began to win international awards, and foreign correspondents flying into Africa came increasingly to depend on KTN reporters for orientation and research. KTN also provided briefings for relief agencies and corporate investors, as well as access to KTN facilities for editing and filing stories to stations outside Africa...
Even though it was privately owned, KTN struggled to provide independent news coverage because of excessive political interference with its editorial direction. The political interference finally forced KTN to scrap the transmission of local news for over one year between 1993 and 1994. In the editorial meeting at which the announcement was made by the General Manager Mike Roles, the reporters in the newsroom stood stunned while Roles rationalized the decision to scrap the reporting on local news, claiming that it was necessitated by financial considerations only...
Eventually KTN was acquired by the Standard Group, consisting of African business people, and partly owned by Daniel arap Moi, Gideon Moi and Joshua Kulei as stated by a WikiLeaks report. The Standard then had a daily circulation of 54,000 and this has improved remarkably since a 2008 relaunch as 'the bold new Standard' taking on prime competitor the Daily Nation's readership. It also publishes a Swahili paper called Baraza which has since been continued though it retains it in its official name KTN Baraza Limited. Besides The Standard and KTN, the media house operated Capital FM radio which broadcasts in most urban Kenyan towns and world wide via the internet. Capital FM has since been acquired by Chris Kirubi a Kenyan businessman. The Standard Group in 2008 announced its intentions to enter the lucrative business and subsequently acquired Toads Media Limited, which operated Radio Simba and had national frequencies. The station went off-air in early 2009 and is expected to resume transmission after a rebrand as part of the Standard Group family...
Kangwana later sued the government and the Standard Group for moneys owed him and for compensation for his losses...
When the Kenya Television Network (KTN) opened in 1990, it caused a major shift in the role of electronic media in Africa. The station caused a stir when it broadcast news bulletins that did not start with reports about a Head of State as was common throughout Africa at that time. KTN became so popular that there was a massive spike in television sales in Kenya. KTN was watched closely by other governments in Africa to see how it would impact the public and the politics. The government of Uganda sent analysts to observe KTN activities and used it as a model for media liberalisation in Uganda. Some of the reporters at KTN were invited to help start and manage new private radio and TV stations in Kenya and in other African states.
The KTN came at a very opportune moment as it was in the middle of the multiparty democracy movement in Africa, and it became the first TV station to give voices to the subversives, dissidents and opposition politicians. KTN covered the most controversial events that included the volatile political chaos of the transition period from dictatorial single-party state systems to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. KTN reporters endured being tear gassed alongside the opposition luminaries in Africa's transition to democracy. KTN was also the first station to send reporters into Somalia after the fall of the Siad Barre regime. The station actively sought to cover stories in the rest of Africa, an attitude that was uncommon for TV stations in Africa at the time.
KTN continues to be the breeding ground to some of the country's best TV anchors introducing on-air talents such as Anne Kiguta, one of the country's leading female Anchors and James karani, one of the country's leading Business news personalities. Other trail blazers who call KTN their birthplace but since left include Anchor and award-winning Reporter John-Allan Namu, Mohammed Ali, aninvestigative journalist, Lillian Muli, Esther Arunga and Janet Mbugua.
The TV editors, reporters, producers, and anchors of KTN during the 1990s included Catherine Kasavuli, Jacqueline Thom, Raphael Tuju who had also reported on the first multiparty elections in Zambia, Fayaz Qureishi Lydia M. Manyasi, and Charles Wachira who covered the refugee crises in the region. There were also Christine Nguku, Mercy Oburu, CNN Anchor Zain Verjee, Robert Ochieng, Patricia Gashengu, Annette Kanana-Bazira, who produced an interfaith show on Sundays, Ruth Mutia, Njoroge Mwaura, Isaiah Kabira, Jeff Koinange, as well as the editors Sammy Masara, Abel Ndumbu, Mike Roles and Herman Igambi. Several of the reporters then and now, including Mercy Oburu, Christine Nguku and the producer Annette Bazira. honed their skills at Daystar University, a liberal arts university that produced influential alumni in the late 1980s and early 1990s who have had a large impact on media and politics in Africa.
KTN staff in its early years included Joseph Warungu who became the head of BBC's Africa Service. Another KTN alumnus is Dan Kashagama, the founder of the African Unification Front, who originally covered the Somalia desk at KTN. Kathleen Openda, was for a long time during her stint at KTN the most popular broadcast personality in East and Central Africa. Ms. Openda also launched several high-impact programs: The Breakfast Show, Third Opinion and Enterprise Kenya. The first two were live, interactive shows that invited Kenyans to tackle issues of governance and civil society, and to express themselves freely on a wide range of topics while the latter highlighted entrepreneurs in the country and is still on air to date.
Some of KTN's staff were celebrities. Jaqueline Thom was a Miss World contestant and Miss Kenya prior to joining KTN as a political reporter and news anchor. Jeff Koinange is now a lead reporter for K-24 and a former CNN reporter. Ahmed Abdullahi Igge, a Freelance Journalist currently based in the USA is also one of the most popular TV News reporters to have started a career at KTN (1998 to 2002). Ahmed was among the first to help launch KTN Leo, the Swahili news at 7:00pm (Ahmed was the first KTN staff to have been approached by Swaleh Mdoe, then of Nation TV. Swaleh Mdoe went on to play a vital role in the launching of KTN Leo). Ahmed was also given the opportunity to start the International News Roundup by the then Head of News Isaiah Kabira, who now heads the Presidential Press Unit at State House Nairobi. Former news editor Oliver Litondo is also an international film actor. Litondo's filmography includes major parts in Hollywood blockbusters, including The Lion of Africa, Sheena, the Italian movie Orzowei, Il Figlio Della Savana andIvory Hunters. Litondo mentored many reporters during the early 1990s, having studied medicine in the US, before taking media studies at Harvard University. Another KTN pioneer was presenter Jimmy Gathu who hosted music shows every weekday evening namely Rap'Em, Kass Kass, Rastrut, Jam-a-Delic and Rythmix. He also hosted the kids' show Club Kiboko on Saturday mornings. He then went on to work in radio. His music show was taken over by Esther Mbondo and Club Kiboko was hosted by former Miss India Kenya and radio personality, Pinky Ghelani. Gathu was also one of the pioneers of Hip-Hop music in Kenya.
End of an Era
In October 1993 security officers boarded a commercial airliner, seized the passport of KTN Director Jared Kangwana, and prevented him from departing on a business trip. Kangwana said that the act was part of a government intimidation campaign to force him to relinquish control of KTN to the then ruling party, KANU. The government took no action to institute criminal proceedings against Kangwana but ultimately succeeded in forcing him to cede the company to KANU. The station is now part of The Standard Group, which also publishes The Standard newspaper.
In spite of the political constraints, KTN has pioneered trends in African journalism. Although no longer as political as in the early 1990s, especially because the original frontline reporters of KTN have moved on, or have mellowed, the next generation of reporters includes journalists such as Boni Odinga who does social commentaries, Robert Soi who covers sports, Wangeci Murage, a drama producer and director, reporters and news anchors Beatrice Marshall, and Managing Editor, Quality and Product Development and former SABC correspondent and two time CNN African Journalist of the Year Award winner Linus Kaikai. Several dozens of KTN's reporters have won international awards for journalism. Former Business news editor Patrick Maigua was the 1999 electronic business journalist of the year and went on to win the CNN Africa Journalist of the Year business category in 2003. KTN pioneer cameramen were, Pius Kilaiti, John Mutahi, Aggrey Mutali who helped to shape TV news coverage.
In 2006 Kathleen Openda-Mvati unveiled Enterprise Kenya a new show geared to the entrepreneur as opposed to the long-running KTN Business Weekly that concentrates on what the big companies are doing and an analysis of all things business. Herman Igambi went on to become Editor-in-Chief of Citizen Radio and TV Network in Kenya. Gideon Muoka, one of the original KTN producers became head of the newly established Sanyu in Uganda. CNN anchor and presenter Zain Verjee also started her television broadcast career as an anchor on the KTN evening news and hosting the talk show Third Opinion.
KTN alum Charles Wachira went on to become editor of Society Magazine in Kenya, and worked for the Inter Press Service, for NewsAfrica and Africa Today while based in Harare, and also for the Third World Network and the British based PANOS.
KTN's reputation helped to set Kenya apart for its apparent ability to maintain one of the few, by international standards, vibrant media outlets while undergoing severe political upheaval, violent repression and cultural transition.
Despite increased competition from new entrants, the station's news brand has stood out. The station relaunched in December 2008, changing its logo and introducing a robotic telehead. The slogan also changed to Always KTN from Your Channel, Your Choice
In 2007, KTN augmented its efforts to target the youth market launching Str8up hosted by a team of Christine, Lina, Andrew, Anjlee, Grace, Myra, Jonathan and Yolanda.
The show has recently[when?] pulled another first in the market with KTN Financial Markets Live, a weekdays afternoon business bulletin complete with interviews and analyses. The station became the first local channel to run live trading data from the Nairobi security Exchange in late May 2009.
KTN is known and praised by the public for its unique way of reporting and exposing issues and scandals. KTN has one of the most talented reporters and anchors in the country. The news anchors include Njoroge Mwaura who has been with the station since its inception, Beatrice Marshall, the 2008 CHAT awards winner Esther Arunga, Lillian Muli, Michael Oyier, the 2008 CHAT awards winner John Allan Namu, Janet Mbugua, Boni Odinga, Evelyne Wamboi, Esther Kahumbi, Ahmed Dharwesh, Ali Manzu, Lulu Hassan, Ann Ngugi, Saddique Shabaan, Larry Madowo, Noah Otieno, Newton Ndebu, Muraya Kariuki, Samuel Kantai, Mwendwa Kiogora, Anne Soy, Mohamed Ali of the investigative series 'Jicho Pevu' fame, Isabella Kituri, Purity Mwambia Robert Soi and Anjlee Gadvi.
KTN also aires the latest TV series including 24, Prison Break, Monk, ER, Third Watch, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, Gilmore Girls, The Unit, Standoff, The Practice,Hollywood Heights andCharmed. Although with the new Kenyan constitution taking effect KTN is embarking on enhancing local programming through producing and airing shows such as Mheshimiwa, Changing times , Be the judge. KTN also airs the beast of telenovelas like Hilos de Amor (Marianna and Scarlett), Bellezas Indomables (Untamed Beauties), La Usurpadora (Deceptions), El Clon (The Clone), Saath Saath, Cuando seas Mia (When You Were Mine), Mar de Amor (Curse by the Sea), Rafaela and other highly acclaimed telenovelas.
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