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Zambia to community radio: you are on your own

Zambia mapWhen it comes to funding community radio stations, Zambia’s┬áMinister of Information and Broadcasting Services can only offer some friendly advice: good luck with all that.

“Let me make it very clear that it will not be possible for Government to fund community radio stations,” the Zambia Daily Mail quotes Chishimba Kambwili as saying. “Already we are struggling to fund our own ZNBC, Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and ZANIS, and it will be hard on public coffers to come up with support for community radio stations.”

The Minster said that struggling community radio signals have his sympathy. “I can only advise the community media stations to be aggressive in securing adverts, but we do understand that in some situations, it is difficult to get adverts,” Kambwili added.

Zambia is one of the northernmost nations of southern Africa. It sits atop Zimbabwe and Botswana, the latter country having its own conversation about community radio of late. Zambia’s official language is English, but it has a lot of regional languages, at least eight according to Wikipedia.

Kambwili’s comments appear to have come during a parliamentary discussion about how to preserve the editorial independence of the above mentioned media sources in light of the government’s role as “sole shareholder” in some of them. The Chair of Zambia’s parliamentary Committee on Information and Broadcasting Services told the Daily Mail that it has urged the government to come up with a “national community media policy” and set up a community media fund. Presumably it is in that context that Kambwili says that the government is out of cash for such things, at least as far as radio is concerned.

My sense is that this conversation in Zambia has been going on for a while. Over a decade ago the International Institute for Communication and Development published a survey on the state of community radio in that country.

“The sector has great potential to grow but it is bedevilled by a lot of problems,” the report concluded. “They range from policy ambivalence to financial incapacity”


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