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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Rise of local radio, 2nd Edition

In a week of largely bad news, this is something worth looking forward to :

Government says it has received 110 application for new radio stations and 10 for private television stations. Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, Ronnie Shikapwasha says the government is waiting for the Independence Broadcasting Act (IBA) to be passed in parliament and the appointment of the board to start processing the applications and subsequently issue the licenses. Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha told ZANIS in an interview in Lusaka today that the processing and issuance of licenses will be done as soon as the IBA is taken to parliament in the next sitting.

He said of the ten Television stations that have applied, five have applied for Christians broadcasting stations and want them established in Lusaka and the Copperbelt Provinces. The Minister has also disclosed that three pay television providers similar to MultiChoice have also applied for the licenses. Lt. Gen Shikapwasha further said other parts of the country such as Eastern and Western Provinces, which were previously shunned have also received overwhelming response for the establishment of the stations. He said 10 applications have been received from Chipata alone and commended the private sector and the community for the good response. Lt. Gen. said this has been realized with support from PANOS, UNICEF and other donor agencies.
Not just in terms of the volume of new radio stations but also the idea that the IBA may finally become operational. We may of course be tempted at this point to suggest that many of these radio stations perhaps are driven by the party in government ahead of 2011! Its certainly not like government to allow so much change at one time! But from the story we have no reason to think so, and perhaps a more accurate reading is that this should be seen within the broader context of an irreversible trend that we have previously touched on here and here. I quite excited about partly also because of the link to the internet. As people find a voice they will demand other mediums as well.


  1. I am currently conducting a tour of community radio stations in the Eastern Province that we have been training and supporting at ZAMCOM over the years.

    The state of most of them is worrying in that they are facing serious administrative and operational problems.

    Top among them is high staff attrition and failure to maintain, upgrade and acquire modern equipment.

    This in my view stems partly from the dependence on donor support at inception and is one of the reasons why it is worrisome to see applications for new radio licenses increasing mainly owing to donor support. I would support the establishment of new stations using viable business models and a genuine community driven approach due to the huge resource implications that threaten the sustainability of these stations in the long term if the founders do not have a solid vision and business operational model.

    It is not debatable that the development is positive for our democracy for as long as their editorial autonomy is guaranteed.

    In my view government should deliberately set aside resources through ZICTA and other channels to provide technical support through training and equipment to these community radio stations.

    The government should also create an environment where investors especially in rural areas are encouraged to consider support to community radio as a huge part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.

    Assistant HIV/AIDS Media Specialist

  2. Bruce,

    Very insightful!

    I assume the main challenge is simply that advertising revenue is not sufficient. Hence your interesting recommendation of involving ZICTA. ZICTA already has a fund towards "internet access" funded by the industry - under the ICT 2009 Act. I assume the industry would be averse towards subsidising community radio stations.

    But you are absolutely right, in other countries community radio stations are also subsidised through some "community radio fund".

    It does seem though that setting community funds of sorts seem the best way forward. Properly done they could tap in money from the diaspora and other areas. As you say, it does need a bit of central government help to get these areas to think sustainably. Unfortunately, GOVT in our country means the PARTY IN GOVT. Some local radio stations may not want that help! And for good reason.

  3. Thanks Chola,

    You are right the challenge is how to attract advertising revenue and programme sposorship to ensure sustainability as this is more reliable and viable than any form of central governemnt support.

    My recommendation to those contemplating setting up community radio stations is to firstly ensure tha they carryout comprehensive audience surveys and feasibility studies which will inform their plans.

    Most stations lack proper administration systems and prpcedures coupled with poor or non-existent financial resource mobilization and utilization skills.

    This is an important area of focus in our new strategic engagement with community media, to extend training to mangement, finance and marketing staff because once the stations are able to raise ressources they will be able to retain skilled talent and editorial staff.

    We are in the processing of conducting a comprehensive study with all community radio station to come up with vital data on their audience profiles, geaographical reach and other relevant information that they need to attarct advertising because in the absence of numbers corporate advertisers cannot be compelled.


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