An online campaign was launched early April against Classic 105 FM, particularly the breakfast talk show co-hosted by Maina Kageni and his sidekick Mwalimu King’ang’i. The brains behind the idea say they are very pissed off by the show’s daily theme: sex.
Now sex, as a matter of fact, is something very interesting even among those people who would mount rostrums to tell us that they are offended by any preoccupation
with it. We are sexual beings – which is how the Creator wanted it, if the scriptures are to be believed. So, it should be okay to enjoy sex talk all day every day of the week.
Well, that may be so. But how do you enjoy sex talk by people you have never met, while riding in a matatu with your young daughter, son, sister, brother, father or mother on a Monday morning? How would you like to hear some woman call in to recount how many times she has sex in a week and in what positions?
But we are in a free society, some would argue. Why would anyone who is offended by Maina’s show still tune in? That is where the major problem is, according to the anti-Maina crusaders. Quite often, they have no say in the matter. They would never listen to Maina out of choice. But every morning they have to endure near-explicit sex talk in a matatu while going to work.
But is it Maina’s fault if the matatu people like his show and must get their fix every morning? What do Maina’s critics expect him to do? Ask the Matatu Owners Association to ban his popular show in Matatus?
Yet the concern that commuters are forced to listen to tales of bedroom shenanigans is sensible. Ideally, the passengers have a right to demand that the matatu crew tune to a station they are comfortable with or not play radio at all. But it is also quite possible that there may be other passengers enjoying Maina’s show. That might require
stopping the matatu to take a vote on what to play.
That would be okay, except that the Kenyan matatu is not exactly what the late Prof Wangari Maathai would call a “democratic space”. Matatus are run by hoodlums who don’t give a hoot what anyone else says or thinks. The louts have the final word on what fares to be paid, how many passengers per seat, where to stop, where to sneak through in case of a traffic jam, what speed to cruise at, what radio station to tune to, etc. The matatu is their fiefdom.
But besides the fact that some people are forced to listen to Maina and his horde of adoring women who find it impossible to hide anything from him, there is the other question of the appropriateness of sex talk in a breakfast show. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as appropriate time for sex or sex talk. Appropriate for who? We are sexual beings 24 hours a day. Adult content, for example, is available on the Internet 24/7. With very many people now having smart phones, surfing sex sites can be done anytime. And in real life, people talk about sex whenever it suits them.
But can this argument be used in defence of Maina’s tabloid radio? Not when people sometimes have to listen to the show against their will. And generally, ethical broadcasting
requires that content like Maina’s be aired not at breakfast but late at night especially for the sake of children who are presumed to have switched off or have no access to radio and television.
But ET rejects the puritanical argument that Maina and King’ang’i are unfit to say anything about relationships and that they are destroying the institution of marriage as we know it. Indeed last week two commentaries by scholars appeared in Daily Nation on the same day raising just this issue.
Dr Aristotle Omondi expressed alarm that “matters that ideally ought to be directed to the priesthood and counselling outfits have now been assigned to FM radio presenters by the public.” He went on: “The voluntary choice by the public to anoint FM stations as centres of excellence for relationship counselling should shame the institutions and instruments that ought to handle such matters.” Well, ET is not aware of a national referendum where Maina and other FM “experts” were anointed to sort out ailing relationships. Nor does it necessarily mean that because people call radio stations seeking advice or to ventilate frustrations about relationship, priests and counselors have failed. And who said only priests and counselors know everything about relationships?
In the second commentary, Dr Othieno Joseph was also worried that “what started off as a trivialisation of socio-economic day-to-day issues to offer a cathartic effect through popular comedians has now mutated into a cult with the same comedians standing in as the panacea for relationships, family, leadership and political problems.”
A very strange rebuke, coming from the pen (fingers, really) of a man describing himself as a science communications specialist. Free speech is protected by the constitution. So, Maina and other FM people are free to comment on relationships, family, leadership and politics within the limits of the law.
Secondly, Dr Othieno, knowledge in some fields comes from experience and exercise, not necessarily academic learning. Moreover, what prevents the learned experts from calling in to prescribe their solutions? Or they want to be paid?
Dr Joseph lamented that life-and-death issues, like sex, are trivialized by presenters who seem to derive a lot of pleasure from people’s problems. “I have listened in disgust as hapless individuals call in for help. Some suspect their spouses are engaging in extra-marital affairs,
others suffer severe heart-breaks, while still others have lost their loved ones to illicit liquor. You can hear the anguish in their voices…But such matters, instead of being taken seriously, will too often be trivialised.”
Well, looks like Dr Joseph himself needs help with his ailing sense of humour. How sure is he that those “anguished” people calling radio stations are genuine and need to be taken seriously?
He also ascribes to the media power that it does not necessarily have. Media effects theories are hotly debated. How many people hearing about extra-marital relationships on radio would go out and get themselves a “mpango wa kando” – just because a presenter said it is the in-thing in Nairobi? Personal choices are much more complex than that. So what? Perhaps Maina should consider finding something else to talk about at breakfast and then launch with full gusto into sex from 10pm for the sake of children – and those Kenyans suffering in matatus.