The role and governance of community radio stations in Zambia: the case of Radio Icengelo
Written by Bright Phiri   

The role and governance of community radio stations in Zambia: the case of Radio Icengelo.


By Bright Phiri (2000)
Type: Masters Degree Dissertation
Supervisor: Dr. Ruth E. Teer-Tomaselli
Copyright: Graduate Programme in Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal



Like many African countries in the 1990s, Zambia experienced drastic political, social and economic changes. In response to these changes, Zambia embarked on a market driven economy that has seen the privatisation of most state enterprises. These changes have proliferated in the media industry as well. However, instead of privatising state media, the government liberalised the airwaves, allowing new players to enter the media terrain. This resulted in the mushrooming of many community-based radio broadcasting stations. Since Zambia moved from one-party politics and became a multi-party democracy in 1991, it has seen the emergence of seven privately owned radio stations. Among these are two different kinds of community radio stations: commercial and religious.

Community radio is still in its infancy in Zambia, with the first ever community radio broadcasting for the first time as recently as 1994. Very little research has been undertaken analysing this field of broadcasting in Zambia. Studies (accessible to this author) undertaken in the area of community radio so far, have focused mainly on quantifiable data of these radio stations (Banda, 1998). These studies lack the theoretical analysis which help define the practical role this sector of broadcasting can play in fulfilling a public service mandate. Recent studies (Up in the Air: The State of Broadcasting in Southern Africa - Panos, 1998) draw no detailed relationship between findings and community radio per se. In other words, these studies lack qualitative analysis.

This paper seeks to fill a necessary qualitative gap by focusing on the conceptual and operational characteristics of Radio Icengelo as a case study. Radio Icengelo is a Catholic-run community station launched in 1995, and situated in Kitwe on the Copperbelt province of Zambia. The paper further examines issues such as: conceptions of Radio Icengelo’s ‘community’; the nature and management structure of the organisation; the workforce; funding and sustainability; editorial policy; staff training; programming; languages; licensing procedures and relationship with government.

The project later teases out the role Radio Icengelo plays in terms of social marketing campaigns. The analysis will be looked at in relation to the main features of community radio as postulated by advocates of a participatory approach to the media (McQuail, 1994; White, 1990). Community radio as an alternative medium, is marked by - diversity and plurality, accessibility and participation by the community and non-profit driven (McQuail 1994). The project concludes by highlighting the community radio’s potential to foster social marketing campaigns, using Radio Icengelo as a case study.

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