Crystal Newman, Marcus Kwikiriza, McKenzie, Jackie Lumbasi: why are we losing so much radio talent?

Former XFM’s Siima Sabiti and Marcus Kwikiriza who quit Capital FM

Sanyu FM announced last week that longtime radio host and events MC, Crystal Newman, was leaving their airwaves after 18 years. 

In an emotional farewell to her listeners and fans, Newman, with the voice of a goddess said: “time had come to open the next chapter.”

Sanyu is the oldest private radio station in Uganda. The second being Capital FM which itself had to deal with the exodus of top presenters – Jackie Lumbasi – who is in Kigali now and the jack of all trades, Marcus Kwikiriza – together with whom they made morning radio a must for most. 

Other phenomenal talents such as McKenzie formerly of Hot 100 but later moved to Radio City, Siima Sabiti, who rocked XFM’s airwaves since inception have also thrown in the towel. But it was the legendary Alex Ndawula who opened the doors. So much talent has quit the airwaves. But why?

Building own brands

One thing that is undoubted is that radio develops people’s individual brands. Presenters become famous, get endorsements and often get to busy to keep up. 

Marcus Kwikiriza is, for example, is a brand ambassador at Uganda Breweries, a TV show host (Another Round) on NBS TV, Team Leader at Imara African Coffee, and manages his own events company, Blackstar Entertainment. 

His reason for quitting Capital FM after over a decade is that “he was too busy to keep up.” The same applies to McKenzie real names Bryan Sabiiti. 

Radio doesn’t pay 

After presenters build their own brands, they obviously must demand the pay that is commensurate with what they could get if they were off-air and obviously radio in Uganda is yet to pay announcers, DJs, hosts, and others that kind of money. 

Most top radio presenters earn between shs2.5m-6m. And this is in Kampala. Upcountry, radio presenters earn between shs200,000 to Shs700,000. 

This means that automatically at the face of a new, better-paying opportunity, radio personalities are bound to quit the air. 

Public Relations

It has become a habit for the government, private sector, and other corporations to snatch radio talent to do their PR work. This is regardless of whether or not they have a PR background or experience. 

Val Oketcho, the Capital FM’s Late Date host is the Corporate Communications Manager at MTN Uganda, Sports Expert Mark Ssali moved to UNRA as PRO, McKenzie is the PR at Kella – his own company and the list is endless.

Isn’t it time the PR industry in Uganda built their own talent rather than depleting radio? Anyway, at the end of the day, people must put food on the table. If radio is not footing the bills, the exodus will continue and radio will never be the same again.