The national forum of radios on ICTs and sustainability in Lusaka, Zambia was promoted to emphasize the scope and expected impact of the UNESCO project, exchange good local radio practices, and establish standing relations among the radios, as well as to promote knowledge of the project’s wider relevance to media pluralism and galvanize support to loca media. The event was attended by a total of 18 participants (4 women), representatives of the 5 supported radios in Zambia and other national partners such as: the Panos Institute for Southern Africa (PSAf), the Zambia National Commission for UNESCO as well as the Zambia Community Media Forum (ZaCoMeF).
The Forum was opened by the Swedish Ambassador to Zambia, Ms. Lena Nordstrom, in the company of the Secretary General of the Zambia National Commission for UNESCO Ms. Brenda Muntemba and the Executive Director of Panos Institute Southern Africa, Ms. Lilian Kiefer. During the opening ceremony, the Swedish Ambassador handed diverse equipment to the 5 radios. In her remarks, the Ambassador stated that “Sweden has a new results strategy for development cooperation in Zambia (2013 to 2017) and one of the areas of cooperation is the promotion of free and independent media as a means of strengthening democratic accountability, transparency and increased awareness of human rights among the poor.”
Participants appreciated the Forum as it helped them perceive how their programming can be meaningful and relevant to the communities by the effective use of ICTs and new media in radio broadcasts. There was also recognition of viable sustainability and business planning, mainstreaming the sales and marketing component of the radio in all their operations. The importance of identifying clearly the purpose of radio web-streaming, increasing women participation and gender balance in radios, putting a human face to every broadcast and news were also highlighted.
Summary of presentations
- Zambezi FM presented its experiences in using ICTs and Internet to interact with their audience. The station shared how they manage web streaming of radio content, SMS using frontline SMS and other software provided by the local mobile provider. Participants recognized the need to take advantage of the open source and free platforms to help local radios share content and become visible. It was also discussed and shared the contacts of companies which offer web hosting services at reasonable prices.
- Mr. Michael Daka, founder and Director of Breeze FM presented on the sustainability of local radio in Southern Africa in the XXI century. He gave a clear picture of when Breeze Fm was founded, emphasizing the importance of an independent board that oversees the operations of the radio. The station manager must network and market the station, knowing audiences well and providing them what they want and need. The importance of budgeting and costing was underscored, as well as constant communication with potential funders and advertisers.
- Ms Katendi Wandi, Coordinator for Zambia Community Media Forum (ZaCoMeF) discussed community radio broadcasting in Zambia in relation to sustainability. She noted that the majority of Zambia’s community media were failing to break even, due to many reasons including the restrictions on advertising as stipulated in their licenses.
- The weekly monitoring of the radios stations was presented as a key project activity. There was a consensus that the radio stations collect monitoring data on listening habits from the Radio Listening Clubs (RLC). The RLCs do not have mobile phones or Internet access to provide feedback easily and this presented a challenge in the monitoring exercise. However, the five stations still committed to maintain contact with the radios and the Panos Institute Southern Africa to facilitate the weekly monitoring.
- The project’s online community of practice platform www.mylocalradio.org was presented and the local radios committed to sign up on the platform.
- The radios were asked to start preparing their budget plan projections for 2014. They were also encouraged to work with UN agencies on various humanitarian issues.