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Unease is the hand that holds the pen at Mediamax over looming massive layoffs of journalists


People Daily  board of directors met two weeks ago and resolved not to pump any additional capital into the struggling newspaper reputed as Kenya’s first free newspaper.
Sources say one of the directors, Muhoho Kenyatta, who is Uhuru’s younger brother, took the firm’s chief executive Ian Fernandes to task on why he has not turned the newspaper’s fortunes around one year after being poached from the Nation Media Group.
It was Ian’s idea to have the People Daily rebranded and distributed to the members of the public free of charge. He also proposed the printing to be increased from 3,000 copies to over 100,000 copies daily.
Sources say Muhoho or MK, who is credited for being the brainchild of Kenyatta family’s business empire’s expansion, sought to know why the newspaper has not hit the target of raising Sh2 million each day on advertisement despite the massive capital they have injected in the publication.
He also sought to know the rationale of retaining a bloated staff given that the newspaper has cut on pagination from 48 pages to a maximum of 32 pages and, phased out the Sunday edition.
The sources add that Ian told the board he plans to cut down on expenditure by laying off ostensibly unproductive staff and also giving an opportunity to those who have hit or are about to hit the 50-year mark to retire.
Indeed, Ian was taken to task on why the paper cannot generate Sh3 million daily through advertisements given the fact that it was being read by about 400,000 Kenyans daily.
It is to be remembered that K24, a sister company of People Daily, two years ago, sent about 70 workers home for nonperformance so-explained. Those sacked included workers in the TV station and their radio stations – Kameme FM and Milele FM.
The sacked lot included old hands Anne Ngugi, Nyatichi Nyasani, Rashid Ronald, Zawadi Mudibo, Joyce Mkawasi, Caleb Karuga and Yassin Juma.
Many of them had been lured from leading stations during K24’s relaunch, with a promised salary hike and heaven on earth.
The sources add that last year, Mediamax also hired Deloitte to study its operations and recommend the way forward.
Among the firm’s recommendations were the housing of all operations – radio, TV and newspaper in one roof and staff rationalisation.
According to sources, Mediamax is implementing the recommendations. For instance, all its outlets-K24, People Daily, Mayian Radio, Meru Radio, Pilipili Radio until recently with Najib Balala, Milele Radio and Kameme FM- are now housed at DSM Place, Kijabe Street in Nairobi. Other recommendations which include the unfortunate staff layoffs will be implemented gradually.


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