Fifteen years is a historic milestone, especially when you consider the route Star FM, the biggest Somali radio station in Kenya took to get to where it is today, with an audience population of more than 4.5m listeners.
In July 2005 when the station first opened its little broadcasting house in Garissa, the headquarters of North-eastern region, the FM station aired a two-hour program that also included rebroadcasting of a thirty-minute BBC Somali news bulletin.
It was a long journey that first liberated the airwaves of the three main counties of Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera before expanding deeper into rural settlements and to more urban towns.
“It was a long and amazing journey” Nasra Omar, the station’s operations manager, said “Of course with challenges that we have to overcome, I can say it is a positive transformation in which we achieved a lot.
Star FM is a pioneer in the field of media at least when it comes to the Somali language. It is the first commercial Somali station to broadcast in Kenya, receiving a handsome welcome from the overwhelming majority of Somalis living in the region.
The idea of having a Somali station in Garissa was long overdue but by 2005 the time could never be better. It started connecting the marginalized region offering news and information that the residents were so eager to listen to.
Years later, Star FM established a state-of-the-art studio in the capital Nairobi where it diversified its programs, introducing Borana language and also setting up a dedicated FM station in Dadaab refugee camp known as Radio Gargaar.
“We have changed the narrative in the region,” says Nasra
Star FM has grown to be a 24-hour non-stop broadcaster that invested not just in infrastructure but also in capacity building of the local communities. With the changing dynamics of the world, the station introduced diversified programs that now includes an awareness campaign against coronavirus.
For the last few months, it has been on the frontline in response to the spread of coronavirus, educating members of the predominantly Muslim Somali Community about the pandemic. Programs about the pandemic are aired daily.
‘The voice of North-eastern’ is a slogan of media liberty that has been on air on the radio for the last fifteen years. Today as it celebrates its existence as a regional powerhouse in the media industry, the station marks an important calendar.
“Over the years, we have created a family of listeners. Sometimes, our listeners conduct voluntary community work, raising funds and helping the society. This is something that we are very proud of”
For more than a decade now, Star FM programs have reached so many bare and parched hamlets in the North-eastern region where radio remains a preferred media channel. It is now a trusted news and information source.
Today’s celebration is also a heartfelt appreciation to its listeners for their allegiance and support throughout their broadcasting work. The station recognizes the place of its ardent listeners that are part and parcel of the journey.
“We appreciate our listeners. We ask them to continue sending and sharing their thoughts and feedback because that is what drives us. We say a big THANK YOU to them” Nasra appreciates
Courtesy: Smart Muslim