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Zambia - Public Broadcasting In Africa (AfriMAP 2010)

Zambia - Public Broadcasting In Africa (AfriMAP 2010)

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Published by OSFJournalism
This report written by Chris Chirwa argues that Zambia must make urgent legal reforms within the media sector, especially given government\'s own acknowledgement in 2006, when it unveiled its Fifth National Development Plan, in which it admitted that: \'existing legislative framework within which the media operate does not sufficiently provide for freedom of the media, freedom of information and good governance.\' The report therefore, states that such an acknowledgement, gives firm cue for positive and speedy action to put in place new progressive media legislation and repeal existing laws that impede freedom of media and freedom of information in the country. Zambia currently has legislation that restricts media freedom, amongst which is the Penal Code, which amongst other things, deals ambiguously with sedition and criminalises defamation, it also empowers the President of the country to ban publications. There is the State Security Act, which is redundant, given the fact that Zambia is no longer threatened by its neighbours, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is a tool can be subject to abuse by authorities in power, as well as the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act granting unreasonable protection from criticism of law makers. The Zambia country report has 62 key recommendations in the media laws and operations of the public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), divided into 9 sections: media laws; the broadcasting landscape; digital migration; broadcast legislation and regulation; ZNBC funding; programming; perceptions of ZNBC; broadcast reforms and key recommendations.
This report written by Chris Chirwa argues that Zambia must make urgent legal reforms within the media sector, especially given government\'s own acknowledgement in 2006, when it unveiled its Fifth National Development Plan, in which it admitted that: \'existing legislative framework within which the media operate does not sufficiently provide for freedom of the media, freedom of information and good governance.\' The report therefore, states that such an acknowledgement, gives firm cue for positive and speedy action to put in place new progressive media legislation and repeal existing laws that impede freedom of media and freedom of information in the country. Zambia currently has legislation that restricts media freedom, amongst which is the Penal Code, which amongst other things, deals ambiguously with sedition and criminalises defamation, it also empowers the President of the country to ban publications. There is the State Security Act, which is redundant, given the fact that Zambia is no longer threatened by its neighbours, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is a tool can be subject to abuse by authorities in power, as well as the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act granting unreasonable protection from criticism of law makers. The Zambia country report has 62 key recommendations in the media laws and operations of the public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), divided into 9 sections: media laws; the broadcasting landscape; digital migration; broadcast legislation and regulation; ZNBC funding; programming; perceptions of ZNBC; broadcast reforms and key recommendations.

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1.1 the Znbc

The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) has a 170-page handbook,
Producers’ Guidelines,89

that radio and television editors, producers, reporters and other
staf at diferent levels of the organisation are supposed to refer to and abide by. The
document contains instructions on how to handle broadcasts and reportage of various
issues and how to respond to certain problematic circumstances.
The authors of the guidelines have obviously used the Commonwealth Broadcasting
Association (CBA) Editorial Guidelines90

as a template: more than half of the handbook’s
content is similar to the CBA document, in particular with regard to accuracy,
interviews, election coverage, confict of interest, phone-ins, religion in programmes,
taste and decency, children, privacy, crime and anti-social activity, violence, as well as
fairness and ‘straight dealing’.
Among many others, the ZNBC Producers’ Guidelines address the issues of the ‘right
of reply’ and how to deal with ‘impartiality’, ‘warnings and signposting’, ‘language’,
‘the portrayal of sex’, ‘politics and politicians’, ‘presidential and ministerial coverage’,
‘addressing the nation’, ‘party political broadcasts’, as well as a prohibition of live shows
by independent producers.
Regarding ‘impartiality’, the document has this to say:

89 Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Producers’ Guidelines, 1998 edition.
90 M. Raine (ed.), CBA Editorial Guidelines, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association/UNESCO 2004.

88

PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN AFRICA: ZAMBIA

As programme makers produce programmes, it is important to note that the notion of

impartiality91

lies at the heart of ZNBC. No area of programming is exempt from it.

ZNBC should serve all the nine provinces of Zambia, recognizing and responding to

all different tastes, views and perspectives. Programme makers should, therefore,

aim to refect, inform and stimulate this multiplicity of interests with programmes

of range, quality and diversity – programmes to cater for people of any age, belief,

colour, race, tribe, ability, sexuality or gender.

In respect of ‘politics and politicians’, the guidelines state:

Reporters and producers must always exercise extra care when reporting or producing

political programmes. Here again, the need to exercise honesty, accuracy, objectivity

and impartiality is of paramount importance. ZNBC staff must therefore, at all times –

Conduct themselves in a manner that protects them from confict of interest, real

or perceived ...

Deal with public issues impartially so as not to be favourable to any one body of

thought, be it political, social, religious, economic, etc. ...

Be judicious in reporting and editing so as not to be biased or present views which

may be misconstrued by the audience ...

Conduct themselves in a manner that in no way brings the standing of the ZNBC

or its staff in [sic] disrepute.

The issue of ‘Presidential and Ministerial Coverages [sic] and Addressing the Nation’
receives fairly extensive and specifc attention in the guidelines:

[The] ZNBC accords special status to the State President in its broadcasts. Time

is always found to give enough coverage to the President and the Vice President

to air their coverages [sic] either in edited form or in their entirety. Whenever it

is permissible, all press conferences by the President shall be covered live on

Television and all Radio channels. A delayed edited version of the press conference

shall also be aired on the same day, unless time and/or equipment does not permit

91 ‘Impartiality’ is not defned in the Producers’ Guidelines.

PROGRAMMING

89

this. Through their Controllers, producers must liaise with the Press Offce of the

Zambia Information Services for State House coverages. In some cases, it may be

necessary to deal directly with the Special Assistant to the President for Press and

Public Relations, or his/her representative.

Time and again, the President, the Vice President, or Ministers appointed to do

so on their behalf, may be required to address the nation on Radio and Television

at short notice. ZNBC has an obligation to carry out these broadcasts, even at

very short notice, so as to enable the Government provide [sic] information or

explanation of events of prime national or international importance, and/or seek the

co-operation of the public in connection with such events.

Whenever this happens, announcements must be made to this effect, and apologies

made to audiences that were expecting a scheduled programme or programmes to

be aired at those particular times ...

It is ZNBC policy not to allow anyone, other than the President, the Vice President,

Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, or Government offcials appointed to represent

them, to address the nation on Radio or Television. In special circumstances of an

emergency nature, the Leader of the Offcial Opposition in the House or a leader

of any opposition party shall be allowed to address the nation. It is important for

producers to note that there is a difference between giving news coverage to a

politician and allowing him or her to address the nation, either from copious notes,

a written speech or off-the-cuff.

On ‘party political broadcasts’, the guidelines say:

Time and again, ZNBC offers time to all political parties for a series of party political

broadcasts. These may be in the form of advertisements, or ZNBC may meet the full

cost of the programmes, such as the “Road to Manda Hill” [Parliament is located

on Manda Hill] television series. In such cases, the principle of equal opportunity

will be observed in the acceptance and transmission of political campaign materials.

ZNBC reserves the right to publish or not to publish materials presented to it,

whether such materials are paid for or not …

In the light of its national responsibilities, ZNBC shall avail all political parties –

other than just the ruling and Offcial Opposition parties – equal opportunities, in

ZNBC-sponsored programmes, to air their respective positions. (This rule does not

90

PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN AFRICA: ZAMBIA

cover paid-for political advertisements or statements which may be accorded to

those political parties which have the fnances to pay for them.)

ZNBC has, time and again, been accused of not giving balanced coverage of political

parties in news and current affairs programmes during election campaigns ... In

principle,92

ZNBC should give equal coverage to all the major political parties taking

part in any election in Zambia.

Under the chapter ‘Dealing with Independent Producers’, the guidelines point out:

No independent producer shall be allowed to present live shows of any kind, whether

on Radio or Television. Live shows will only be presented by full-time staff. Special

circumstances will apply only where ZNBC commissions a person, because of his or

her special knowledge of the subject at hand, to present such programme.

1.2 Private and community broadcasters

An enquiry made with a number of broadcasting stations showed that many do not
have any programme/editorial policies and guidelines in place. Radio Phoenix, for
example, said they ‘have no editorial policy’.93

The station director of Livingstone-based
Musi-O-Tunya Catholic Radio indicated that they were in the process of formulating
such guidelines.94

Radio Maria of the Catholic Church in Chipata, on the other hand, has drawn up
guidelines that provide for public interest programming with a special bias towards
spiritual development.95

Mazabuka Community Radio has a manual containing
programming and editorial policy and plans to develop more detailed policies.96
Repeated attempts to get information on editorial policies from Muvi Television

were unsuccessful.

92 No exemptions are given by the Guidelines.
93 Christine N. Tanzala, station manager, Radio Phoenix, in a statement to the researcher on 27 October 2009.
94 Sr Immaculata N. Sililo, station director, Musi-O-Tunya Radio, Livingstone, in an e-mail dated 21 August 2009.
95 Fr Gabriel Kwaku Phiri, director Radio Maria, Chipata, in an e-mail dated 29 August 2009.
96 Bellon Chintombwa, acting station manager, Mazabuka Community Radio, Mazabuka, in an e-mail dated 21 August

2009.

PROGRAMMING

91

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