Siliya’s use of Private Station: An admission audiences moved on from ZNBC

Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya
Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya

By Parkie Mbozi

On 24 February 2020 Information and Broadcasting Minister Dora Siliya made an appearance on Prime TV, a private station. This was within 24 hours that opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hachilema appeared on the same station for his ‘state of the nation address’, as some analysts called it.

For starters, I will not take away the accolades Hon Siliya was showered with for what observers described as a ‘mature’ and ‘objective’ elaboration of government position on gassing activities that had gripped the nation. Hitherto the issues attracted all manner of wild and ill-conceived and calculated accusations and counter accusations across political divides, even without merit nor evidence. Here is one of the accolades from his Royal Highness Senior Chief Mukuni, “For the first time I heard a minister speak wisely instead of finger pointing like others are doing against others when the police is still pursuing the matter. Please help me with her number if you can, I want to congratulate her.”

A statement like the following is what earned Hon Siliya the accolades, “What is happening in our country? I think to reduce it to just politics by us in government would not be the right thing. That’s why we are saying ‘let the police tell us.” She added, “These are criminal elements; there’s no excuse for politics here. Politicians are in the business of improving people’s lives. It is not for us in government to determine who is involved. We are waiting for the police to tell us and those people will go to court.”

It was hoped that these comments by the Chief Government Spokesperson would put finger pointing and knee-jerk reactions to gassing to rest.
On that score allow me to move on to the thesis (arguments) of my article: which is that Hon Siliya’s use of Prime TV is an indirect admission that the media resource at her free disposal (24/7), the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), has lost credibility and ultimately audience reach. Some have argued that she used Prime TV back-to-back with Mr Hichilema’s address to the nation in order to bequeath government’s response to him. I will not dwell on this narrative for the moment.

I will maintain my line of thought that for the Government Spokesperson to turn to Prime TV to address the nation on gassing – a hot topical of the moment – is an indirect admission that private TV and radio stations have ‘stolen’ some of ZNBC’s audiences (viewers and listeners).

Here is why I proffer this narrative. First and foremost, ZNBC is the almighty in broadcasting, the mother of all broadcasting – radio and TV – in Zambia. Until 1994 when Radio Phoenix started operating as the first private commercial radio station in Zambia since independence, ZNBC – operating as Zambia Broadcasting Services until 1988 – was the only operator of both TV and radio in the country.

Even now with over 30 TV and 130 radio stations operated by private, commercial and community interests, ZNBC remains the almighty broadcaster and the only one benefitting from direct public support through state and Public Private Partnerships investment, direct funding and licences and levies. In fact, since the amendment of the Independent Broadcasting (IBA) Act in 2017, the IBA collects TV levies on behalf of ZNBC. Clearly no other broadcasting station – radio or TV – enjoys so much resources as ZNBC. It explains its unassailable and exclusive capacity to be in every province and almost every district of the country.

The ZNBC also enjoys almost exclusive rights as content provider under the digital migration arrangement. It is also the only one with a license to broadcast across all corners of the country. So, all things being equal, there should be no reason for the Chief Government spokesperson to turn to private media, in some cases at a fee, to proffer official statements.

Yet despite all this monumental infrastructure and capacity, there is one reality which is beyond ZNBC’s control: the audiences (you and I the listeners and viewers alike). Despite all the massive resources and inputs at ZNBC’s exposal, the final judgement is on the taste of their pudding: their programmes. That’s where the audiences come in. With the current plurality of radio and TV stations, the audiences choose whom to turn to fulfil their needs and wants. As argued by scholars of the Uses and Gratification theory (e.g. Katz et al, 1974; Papacharissi, 2008), the media fulfil the daily needs of the consumers of their messages beyond being informed, educated and entertained.
From a related theory known as selective exposure, we know from research that audiences select which medium or programme to expose themselves and pay attention to and messages to retain for future use based on their needs, wants and prejudices.

Dexter and White (1964) thus observes that, “Human attention is highly selective. People learn to focus their attention on those aspects of their environment on which the satisfaction of their (Immediate) needs is dependent.” Research based on this theory is therefore conclusive that when a media organisation is perceived to be biased by either not covering one segment of the population or being unfair to it, the followers of the aggrieved group are likely to shun that medium and its programmes.

In the case of the ZNBC, all the election monitors for the 2016, 2015 and even 2011 elections reported biased coverage of the opposition, who command support from at least half of the country going by the 2016 general election. It is, therefore, plausible to conclude that ZNBC has lost a sizeable audience segment to some private media, which are perceived to be fair and balanced. Hon Siliya, as a media professional, is probably aware of this. The admission of biased coverage was also recognised by former Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo, in his media statement quoted by News Diggers on 11 March 2019. Dr Kasolo was magnanimous enough to advise the national broadcaster to address the vice as stated below.

“I was there two days ago. I was speaking to the Director of Programmes and also my good friend who runs the Sunday Interview Mr. Zulu (Grevazio) and I said to them, it’s about time we started improving our outlook and image of ZNBC. We must allow the opposition to come on certain programmes and also out their views. We must allow debate between opposition and ruling party MPs and Ministers. And I know that my honourable Minister (Dora) Siliya is very keen that we do that. We discussed at length.”

Sadly, the perceived biased coverage and loss of audiences hurts advertising too, which is the main and traditional source of revenue for mainstream media. Yet the perceived benefit from coverage that only favours the ruling party has never been sustainable nor always effective, otherwise Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Mr Rupiah Banda would never have been kicked out of power.

On the flip side, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) covers all the parties equally and fairly yet the ruling African National Congress (ANC) continues to be in power. Lesson: publish and leave it to the audiences – the masters – to judge. They are active and not unintelligent users of the media.

The author is media and communication scholar, research fellow and PhD candidate based in South Africa. He can be reached on: pmbozi5 AT yahoo DOTcom.


  1. Pleas note , lungu and pf can never win any free and fair election.

    PF is bankrolled by GRZ tax payers money for most of its operations.

    ZNBC is a media arm of PF……

  2. Dora Siliya for running mate. Hate this woman or love her she is a smart woman who deserves to be in the second most powerful position. ECL has already said his Vice will always be a woman and if you look around she is the one who is the best. Let now look at the other candidates and their flaws;
    Jean Kapata – Has the Mukula scandal following her around and she is just not trust worthy
    Nkandu Luo – This one is a tribalist and not fit to be a minister
    Joyce Nonde – Not many people know what she has achieved
    Godfridah Sumaili – She runs a ministry that was set up to hoodwink zambians and she takes her orders from Imakando. She has also made some very sad decisions like banning Zodwa
    Kampamba Mulenga – This woman has not achieved much

  3. Not only have they trekked to private TV stations, they are trooping to the social media platforms too, the same platforms they de taste and hate to the born.

  4. I disagree. Dora Siliya was just saying that whatever the local tv station u prefer, she wants to talk to u.

  5. There is a rumour taking the rounds that Dora Siliya is dead after she was gassed in her bedroom last night, how true is this?

  6. Do not be deceived!
    Dora is repositioning herself.
    She has seen what most can’t see in PF!
    She is not only wicked but shrewd as well!

  7. The biggest problem that PF has is failure to admit generally, before the closure of the post newspaper, people used to buy both the daily and times of Zambia just in order to compare some news with the post which was the media leader in Zambia, the moment the post was killed people generally stopped buying newspapers eventually leading to both the times and the daily going into intensive care.
    Today, because of maximum abuse of ZNBC as a campaign tool for the PF, everyone has moved on from ZNBC and left it with PF resulting in that channel becoming unpopular all because of it propensity to paint PF white even when it is black. now even the PF politicians have realized that in order to reach the masses ZNBC is not the station to use but private stations which to some extent is true, but…

  8. but what they do not realise is that generally when Zambians hear that a PF minister or member will be on private television for a particular period of time, people just move to other channels for that period of time because they know that PF does not speak sense or the truth. PEOPLE NOW READ PF LIKE A BOOK AND THEY CAN NOT BE CHEATED ANY MORE

  9. ZNBC is legendary.
    For years, ZNBC has been soaring making sure that the country doesn’t disintegrate into chaos.
    God knows if we had these overzealous stations the likes of Muvi and Prime, Zambia would have been in ashes.
    Long live ZNBC! Long live censorship! Long live professionalism.
    Thank you ZNBC.
    Only the dumb and daft would not appreciate your work.
    Only the damned would insult you.
    Only the feeble minds would despise you.
    Guess what all journalist staffers want to end up at ZNBC.
    ZNBC is the master of the art of Journalism is Zambia. You dare insult my ZNBC, I will severely deal with you personally.

  10. Always negative in perception – that is a typical Zambian. Instead of applauding the fact that a Cabinet Minister can go to a private station and talk with the those always criticizing ZNBC, no, a Zambian is happier looking for negatives.

  11. Building a strategy for eventualities ahead, trying to reach the viewership by building unprecedented approaches or whatever! Dora sure knows how to count the tea leaves in her cup!

  12. Building a strategy for eventualities ahead, trying to reach the viewership by building unprecedented approaches or whatever! Dora sure knows how to count the tea leaves in her cup!

  13. What is happening now. The useless PIA came out with a press statement that Madison is a good company and controls 15% of insurance market share. What a piece of crap!. And then chairman of MGen cones out dishing lies about MGen knowing very well he will go in if Mgen goes under as it has been insolvent since 2005, propped up by PF supporting it’s financier Lawrence Sikutwa. Unfortunately PF thugs have now a bigger financier, the chairman of Mayfair Insurance and business is shifting to Mayfair. Crooked to the core.

  14. Madison Asset Management Company taken over by SEC. Depositors shall due management of SEC for allowing Madison to continue skimming retired generals and other retirees. They have lost their retirement nest.

    Next are Madison Life and Madison General companies, both are insolvent and ultimately PIS shall be made to account for sad state of insurance industry. Take possession of these companies to protect policyholders especially life insurer savers, whose money is diverted by thug of Lawrence, Lawrence Sikutwa
    Ghost of Peter haunting Sikutwa

  15. So the writer of this article is insinuating that PRIME TV is running by UPND therefore Madam SILIYA shouldn’t go there.Can ZNBC match with PRIME TV..?
    They look everything in tribal lines.

  16. By appearing on Prime TV, Dora is addressing the UPNDEAD audience which pretends not to watch or listen to the mighty ZNBC. The PF is simply widening its base unlike other parties which are always campaigning to the already converted.

  17. Dora never forced herself to feature on prime tv,am sure she was invited.This analysis is biased,by the way,you cant equate prime tv with znbc.

  18. Peter the fire underwriter: Please don’t celebrate business failure or business difficulties. If u understand hw a money economy works, it should worry u because your countrymen and women stand to lose their livelihoods. A business can go through a bad patch but it’s possible to bring it back to normal and healthy trading. This the difference btwn us Africans and other cultures. Once tough times come, we want to run away instead of rolling up our sleeves and fight.

  19. My comments have not been posted.


    Do you only allow people with political inclinations? If so, please let us know so we can discontinue reading your paper to allow the right people do it

Comments are closed.