Challenges facing private radio stations in Zambia
Published On February 23, 2014 » 4415 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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 • A boy listens to the radio.

• A boy listens to the radio.

A diverse media is necessary and crucial in a democracy as it acts as a watchdog of good governance because it facilitates access to information for the public to happenings in Government and helps the public make informed decisions.
In a young democracy like Zambia, a credible and effective media has been used as an instrument to promote not only democracy but the effective use of public resources for development by reporting issues of corruption.
It is for this reason that liberalisation of the airwaves has been in many democratic countries, encouraged as partners of development as it promotes effective use of public resources.
Since the liberalisation of the economy in Zambia, the media industry has recorded massive growth in the establishment of radio and television stations by both the private and public sector.
The situation has resulted in an increase in dissemination of information among the public in rural and urban areas, a move which has influenced informed decision-making by the people in the country.
In order to allow the media effectively play its role of informing, educating and entertaining, Government has let the various media organisations operate without interference and undue influence.
This has seen the proliferation of commercial, educational, religious and community radio stations which has increased from 40 in 2011, to about 70 radio stations across the country in the year 2014.
To further strengthen and enhance private sector investments in the establishment of radio stations, Government has been supporting programmes aimed at improving capacities to enhance operations of radio stations.
Recently, Information and Broadcasting Deputy Minister Poniso Njeulu toured Eastern Province to appreciate the challenges of commercial and community radio stations in an effort to enhance their operations.
Breeze FM Radio was the first radio station which Mr Njeulu visited.
He was met by proprietor Michael Daka who shared the experiences, successes and challenges of the radio station during its ten years of operation.
Mr Daka revealed to the Deputy Minister that the biggest challenge the radio station faced was to acquire a loan to expand radio coverage to all parts of the province.
He noted that local banks did not show willingness to give a huge loan to the radio station saying he had to acquire a loan from Europe through his friends.
Mr Daka who did not disclose the amount of money he got, said he had been able to expand radio coverage adding that he started paying back the loan.
Mr Njeulu later went to Feel Free Radio where he met acting station manager Lee Matebesi.
Mr Matebesi noted that the radio station had a poor revenue base as it did not raise adequate resources from advertisement and sponsorship for programmes which were the only sources of income.
“It is for this reason that we are not able to send our reporters for training and all our reporters are not trained, our humble appeal to you, is to provide training programmes to the private sector in order to enhance news coverage as we serve the same public,” he said.
With this in mind, Mr Njeulu noted that Government had already planned a training programme for journalists in both community and commercial radio stations across the country.
He noted that Government was alive to the fact that a number of private radio stations in the country had financial challenges and were not able to train personnel.
“We have this year budgeted to train a number of journalists among local radio stations to ensure they provide a professional service to the public,” he said.
The Deputy Minister also travelled to Chadiza and Vubwi districts where there are no local radio stations.
In the two districts, his mission was to advise the local people to establish radio stations among other issues.
When he addressed a meeting with Government heads of departments and other stakeholders in Chadiza District, Mr Njeulu advised the local people to take advantage of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to establish a community radio station.
“This will enhance access to information especially that people complain about poor Zambia National Broadcasting Service (ZNBC) signal,” he said.
Mr Njeulu, however, said that Government was in the process of improving ZNBC coverage in all parts of the country and had to this effect procured 25 transmitters.
“These transmitters will be taken to districts that do not have the ZNBC signal,” he said.
And while in the newly created district of Vubwi, the Deputy Minister learnt that the local people had formed a board that would spearhead the establishment of a community radio station.
He also learnt that the district would get equipment from the Meteroloigical Department for the radio station which was soon to be established.
Mr Njeulu advised people in the area to construct a structure which would house the radio station with the use of CDF.
And in Lundazi, Mr Njeulu visited the oldest community radio station in the country, radio Chikaya. Management at the station explained that radio Chikaya has been operating without a single trained journalist.
They explained the financial challenges of the radio station which did not have enough computers to carryout operations effectively.
In his response, the Deputy Minister advised management to apply for the CDF to help meet some of its challenges as it was a community nonprofit making radio station that benefitted the people of Lundazi.
He also advised the radio station to relay ZNBC news which he said was of national character and captured news from all parts of the country.
“With this, you will be able to transmit news of national character even to people who cannot access ZNBC in the district,” He said.
A visit to Mphangwe Radio Station of Katete District gave a similar picture of the challenges faced by community radio.
Station manager Dickson Phiri said the radio station did not have a standby generator and that it went off air each time there was a Zesco blackout.
It was at this point that Mr Njeulu disclosed Government’s plans to fund community radio stations next year in order to enhance their operations.
“We’ve been having power outages of late and this has negatively affected our operations as we have been off air,” said Mr Phiri.
The last radio station he visited was Explorer where he was received by station manager Patrick Daka.
At Radio Explorer, the picture was the same, no trained journalists and poor revenue base.
Information is power as the saying goes, provision of it would stimulate growth of the country especially where the Government is working out a policy that allows community radio stations to receive grants from Government.

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