At 13, he had built his own radio station using scrap electronics and was rivaling the government-owned Voice of Kenya (VoK).
At 34, he launched his own TV station using electronic equipment he had put together by himself.
David Mwangi Macharia is the founder and proprietor of UTV Kenya, which is made up of Unjiru FM and Unjiru Television Network.
This is his journey as told by WoK:
The Birth Of UTV
In 2006, Macharia was given the go-ahead to operate the Unjiru Television Network (UTV) by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to broadcast over a 200-kilometer radius in Machakos.
Initially, he wanted to operate from Nairobi but was denied a license by CCK on the grounds that Nairobi was too saturated by other media stations.
Despite having a license, his equipment was rudimentary. Most of it was sourced from dealers of scrap electronics.
For instance, David Macharia used the radio set as the mixer to switch between the radio and the TV.
He also had a makeshift camera which also operated as a microphone. It was held in place by pliers.
The pictures on the TV set were blurry, and he explained to the Daily Nation crew who visited him that it was due to the intensity of natural light in the studio.
Despite the lack of equipment, potential investors saw the station’s promise and offered to purchase it, but Mwangi refused. He vowed to partner with only serious investors.
At the time, the equipment’s estimated value was just Ksh 30,000, but for Macharia, it represented the dawn of a dream he had nurtured since childhood.
The village boy
Macharia’s dream began in 1985 as a standard six pupil at the local Icuga Primary School. He was 13 at the time.
He had started his own radio station dubbed Voice of Unjiru, which broadcast light entertainment programs and news bulletins.
The studio was a contraption of electronic paraphernalia and was located in their mud-walled hut in his Unjiru village home in Nyeri.
David Macharia would rush home from school to read the 1 p.m. ‘news’ bulletins, close the station, and rush back to school. He would be back on air between 8 pm and 10 pm.
The Voice of Unjiru’s broadcasting capacity reached a radius of only 5 kilometers.
However, it became so popular that many villagers opted to tune in to the station rather than the boring government-run Voice of Kenya (VoK).
Almost a year later, government officials visited the village and were astonished by the boy’s creativity.
But rather than tapping on his talent, they ordered him to close down the station, saying it was interfering with VoK signals in the area.
Fearing arrest, Macharia complied with the directives of the officials until 2003 when he revived it and began broadcasting over a one-kilometer radius in Nairobi’s Buru Buru area.
Despite the ban in 1986, Macharia never really abandoned his technological dreams.
While in high school in Nyeri, he constructed a fully operational communication system comprising a transmission system, receiver, cassette player, and record player.
This ingenious contraption was displayed at the KICC and even caught the attention of then-President Moi, who promised to invite Macharia to State House.
But despite his achievements, Mwangi had received no formal education about electronics. His knowledge stemmed from his father, who owned a small transistor radio.
One day, it spoiled and the old man discarded it when he was unable to repair it.
However, young Mwangi dismantled and fiddled with it until he figured out what was wrong and welded the wires back in place with a hot panga.
He was in standard three at the time.
From then on, villagers would flock to his home to have their radios repaired and he became the village technician.
The UTV founder scored a D+ in KCSE and has no formal training in electronics.
After high school, He moved to Nairobi’s Dandora estate to make a living repairing electronics.
While there, his ingenuity attracted the attention of the then-principal of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology, who hired him as a junior technician at the university on contract terms.
He worked there for a while before moving to Buru Buru to start a hardware business.
When the business floundered, Mwangi decided to focus on his technological passions and officially founded Unjiru Television Network.
Today, UTV has a viewership of over 4 million and is accessible countrywide via all free-to-air decoders.
The station runs a variety of programs, including news, movies, and commercials, catering to the needs of the young and old generation.