18 September 1997


Minister bans radio station from relaying live BBC broadcasts

Incident details

legal action

(MISA/IFEX) - Zambian Information and Broadcasting Services Minister David
Mpamba has banned the privately owned FM Radio Phoenix from relaying live
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programmes, reports the Zambia
Independent Media Association (ZIMA/MISA-Zambia). Mpamba announced the ban
on 2 September 1997, claiming that relaying live BBC programmes in Lusaka
and the northern town of Kabwe was contrary to the conditions governing the
station's broadcasting licence, which was issued in February 1996.

The BBC broadcasts on Radio Phoenix included Newsdesk at 0600 and 1300,
Network Africa at 0830 and BBC World News at 1800 hours. Radio Phoenix
managing director Erol Hickey said the BBC programmes were introduced to
broaden the range of newsprogrammes on Phoenix, which carries local news,
community news and rural news. These BBC programmes are already available on
shortwave directly from the BBC. Hickey told ZIMA on 16 September that he
received a letter from Mpamba on 2 September, ordering him to stop
broadcasting live BBC programmes. When applying for Phoenix's broadcasting
licence, Hickey explained his intention to broadcast BBC programmes. Hewas
told then that his request would be considered later. Between February and
June 1997, Radio Phoenix successfully concluded re-broadcast negotiations
with the BBC and was supplied with a satellite dish which the station began
using to receive the BBC programmes for re-broadcasting on Radio Phoenix's
FM frequency. "We had requested for the BBC link and the government said we
should hang on.... The facility was handed over to us this year by the BBC
and we decided that we were going to use it.... I didn't realise that we
would have to ask permission from the government to get the BBC signal,"
Hickey told ZIMA. Further, he admitted that then information minister Amusa
Mwanamwambwa had specifically stated when granting Radio Phoenix a licence
last February, that the station was forbidden from re-broadcasting signals
originating from foreign stations. In an interview with ZIMA on 17
September, Mpamba said he was merely enforcing the licence condition when he
ordered Radio Phoenix to stop re-broadcasting live BBC programmes and that
his action was not "censorship". He quoted the first condition which states
that: "This broadcast licence is only for broadcasts from Lusaka and does
not include the re-transmission of signals from foreign sources." He further
said he had received a letter from Hickey in which he apologised for
breaching the licence condition and requested the government to reconsider
its decision over the matter. "I have received a letter of appeal and I am
considering it," he told ZIMA.


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