FM stations are conning Kenyans under guise of interactive games

The majority of people who love radios are in the rural areas.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • They promote questionable content that sometimes makes fun of people’s traumatic experiences.
  • They are in their millions and they are mainly older people often clueless about the digital world.
  • The half-truths are as dangerous as they are expensive.

Radio is the most popular media in Kenya; more than 70 per cent of people rely on it as a source of news. However, I have recently developed a distrust for radio stations in Kenya because they exploit unsuspecting listeners. 

They promote questionable content that sometimes makes fun of people’s traumatic experiences.

Early in the morning, you will hear a presenter with a simple question that anyone would know the answer to, such as who the first president of Kenya was, or whether Kenya is in Africa or not.

They ask the public to send short messages in order to stand a chance to win. In need of money and hoping to strike gold, many respond. But here is the catch: The texts are not toll-free.

I tried answering the questions and this is how I realised it was a scam. No presenter mentions that when sending these SMS, one will get a prompt to subscribe to a premium SMS service.

The moment you recharge your phone’s airtime, the premium services will deduct some money from your account.

Annoying texts

As a tech-savvy person, I know how to unsubscribe from the expensive and annoying texts but many people do not.

It is deeply concerning because of the number and the type of people that use the radio.

They are in their millions and they are mainly older people often clueless about the digital world.

The majority of people who love radios are in the rural areas. I help my father run his small shop in the village, and I have seen many complain of their airtime running out without even knowing why.

Whenever I intervened, and ask them a few questions, it always goes back to the subscriptions.

The older people often say that they did not hear anything about charges when the presenters asked the questions. It is understandable that businesses have to make money but why can’t the radio presenters disclose all information pertaining their ‘reward schemes’?

The half-truths are as dangerous as they are expensive. What is more appalling is the silence from the bodies that regulate communication in Kenya such as the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA).


Joseph Ndegwa, 20, is an economics student at Kibabii University.

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