Saturday, April 13, 2024

Meet the Kenyan media moguls who built and sold K24 TV and Kameme FM to Kenyatta family

Rose Kimotho and her business partner, Simon Gikandi, are the founders of two of the most successful media brands in Kenya: K24 TV and Kameme FM.

The two stations, which were sold to the Kenyatta family in 2009, have left an indelible mark on the country’s media landscape.

Kimotho’s career in media began in 1978 when she joined The Weekly Review as a journalist. She soon realized that gender-based discrimination was rampant in the newsroom, as she was assigned to cover “gentle” topics such as art and beadwork while her male counterparts covered hard-hitting topics such as politics.

Undeterred, Kimotho moved into the world of marketing and worked at leading agencies such as Ogilvy and McCann before starting her own company, Regional Reach Ltd, in 1994.

In 1999, Kimotho and Gikandi launched Kameme FM, the country’s first Kikuyu-language radio station. They saw an untapped market in the vernacular segment and believed that they could produce a vernacular station with the same quality values as a mainstream station.

Their gamble paid off, and Kameme FM quickly became a top-rated station among Kikuyu-speaking Kenyans in Nairobi and the Mt. Kenya region.

Building on the success of Kameme, Kimotho and Gikandi turned their focus to television. They launched K24 TV in 2007, positioning it as Kenya’s first all-news TV station.

K24 brought on board top presenters including Jeff Koinange and Louis Otieno, but it was hit hard by the Post Election Violence (PEV) that followed the disputed 2007/08 polls, which sent it into financial ruin.

K24 had an overdraft facility from a local bank which the station was unable to service. Eventually, K24 and Kameme had to be sold, and they were acquired in 2009 by TV Africa Holdings, a company linked to the Kenyatta family.

The sale of K24 and Kameme to the Kenyatta family was controversial, and some critics saw it as a consolidation of media power in the hands of a few wealthy individuals.

Kimotho and Gikandi bounced back with new ventures. In 2011, they launched 3 Stones TV, the country’s first Kikuyu-language TV station. The station has continued to grow and has become a leading player in the vernacular segment.

In 2022, they unveiled a new Kikuyu radio station, 91.0 FM, with a slate of popular presenters, some of whom previously worked at Kameme.

Despite the challenges they have faced in their media journey, Kimotho and Gikandi remain optimistic about the future of the industry.

In a past interview, Kimotho said, “The media landscape is changing rapidly, and we need to keep up with the times. We need to embrace new technologies and find innovative ways to reach our audiences.”


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