THE information services sector in Zambia plays an important role in the socio-economic development of the country because it provides a two-way flow of information between information producers and consumers.
This information is channeled through the print, electronic media, folklore, music.
It has been well established that countries that have effectively embraced the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT's) to their advantage have made tremendous strides in many development initiatives.
To this effect, the objectives of the sector aim to enhance the use of the print media, electronic media and ICT's by the various sections of Zambian society for the benefit of the entire nation.
Undoubtedly, HIV/AIDS whose effects are cross cutting has not spared the information sector of negative impacts through incidences of morbidity and mortality.
The liberalisation of the media industry has allowed the importation of unedited foreign media products some of which defeats the norms and values of the Zambian culture, thereby posing a challenge for the Zambian media to counter the negative influences of such products with the positive aspects of the culture of the nation.
Notwithstanding, the information sector operates under a number of statutes which were implemented by the National Media Policy of 1996 which is currently under review.
The statutes include the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Amendment Act number 20 of 2002 Cap 154, Copyright and Performance Rights Act number 44 of 1994 Cap 406,Theatres and Cinematography Exhibition Act Cap 158, Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM) Act of 1996.
Others are Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act number 17 of 2002 as well as the Printed Publication Act Cap 161 and a number of institutional reforms in the sector have been implemented.
The key reforms have been the liberalisation of the airwaves which had facilitated the establishment of a number of community radio stations and private commercial radio and television stations.
Today, a number of private radio stations and televisions have opened since the liberalisation of the airwaves by the Governments.
The vision of Government on information services sector was meant for a well informed citizenry by fully utilising information communication technology for national development by the year 2030.
Further, the goal is to increase media access and outreach throughout the country in order to promote free flow of information.
Already most of the public media institutions are fully computerised while the exercise was still ongoing in others.
The Government has procured more than 56 Frequency Modulation (FM) radio transmitters that have since been installed in a number of districts.
It is in this regard that veteran journalist, Michael Daka set up a radio station called Breeze FM in Chipata District of the Eastern Province, and the radio station celebrated its 10th anniversary last week Thursday.
Initially, the station commenced test transmission on October 5, 2002 and received its confirmation in broadcasting license the following year on January 31, 2003.
According to founder and managing director, Mr Daka described the 10 years of Breeze FM operations in the province as a milestone.
Mr Daka who is former Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM) director said he quit his position at ZAMCOM and sold a family house to set up Breeze FM.
"Although time flies, 10 years is a longtime. Those who observe business trends know that companies like babies die soon after birth or shortly," he said.
At least US$ 200,000 equivalent to the K billion or KR1 million was spent for the upgrading of the facilities in the province.
Mr Daka said the planning that took place by setting up of Breeze FM was thought and strategic.
"The planning process started with carrying up an audience survey. This helped understand the demographics of the community, radio ownership and listenership patterns, whether or not members of the community needed a new radio station and what type of programmes they wanted the station to broadcast," he said.
He said the response of the community became overwhelming throughout the various stages of development in the province.
Mr Daka said the station plans to upgrade its studios to match the technological level of its transmission system and continue to work professionally and identify itself strongly with the community.
"We want to broaden listener choice in news, information and programmes in the areas of agriculture, education, environment, health and small business development," explained.
He said the station was also innovative as well as stimulating fresh interest in local languages , traditions, culture, promotion of traditional drama as well as folklore in order to broaden listenership.
Mr, Daka, however said the station was facing challenges due to unreliable power supply in the province saying the cost of doing business was very high due to outages.
"The second serious challenge has been the failure or delay by many clients' especially national advertising companies to pay for contracted work. We hope this attitude will not continue because it undermines our effort," he said.
Mr Daka commended Government and it relevant agencies for granting authority and licenses to the station.
He explained that today Breeze FM was one of the most effective and successful radio stations in Zambia, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African continent.
The station was in fact providing training and other assistance to stations in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
He said that the expansion programme means that Breeze FM was now in a position to support Government, Non -Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and anyone who was doing anything to help the province.
Speaking at the occasion to mark 10 years of Breeze FM held at station premises, Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga expressed concerned with some players in the media industry who are taking advantage of the good gesture by the Government to publish malicious, defamatory and false information.
Mr Malupenga said it was sad that some media industry have taken advantage of publishing malicious, defamatory, and false stories about some private citizens and the Government in general.
The permanent secretary said this in a speech read on his behalf by Ministry of Information acting Director Planning, Press and Public Relations Beaton Kaluba.
He said some of the players in the media have become experts at reporting rumours without establishing facts when reporting.
"Some of the players in the media have now become experts at reporting rumours.The media are supposed to investigate rumours, establishing facts and report the established facts. Sadly, some media players are deliberately ignoring this professional requirement in journalism, "he said.
Mr Malupenga said the Government would not associate with such type of press freedom because it was unprofessional saying the Government was demanding for professionalism and ethical journalism.
He said it was wrong and unacceptable to use the power of the media to publish misleading and un-researched information with intent to cause fear or alarm in the nation.
He warned that the Government would not take kindly to such irresponsible actions because the role of the media was not to objectively inform their audience about what was happening in the country and beyond so that they could make informed decisions.
Mr Malupenga challenged the retired and veteran media practitioners to help in restoring the integrity ad sanctity of their profession by educating upcoming journalists about the importance of the noble profession.
He encouraged entrepreneurship and retired media practitioners to take advantage of Government policy to liberate the airwaves and set up radio stations and newspapers thereby participating in keeping the masses abreast with the happenings in the country and beyond.
Mr Malupenga reassured the media industry in the country that the Government would remain committed to the promotion of freedom of the press and expression.
Mr Malupenga however, commended Breeze FM for landmark achievement by opening up the airwaves in enhancing the dissemination of information to the public on various issues of the public interest.
He said Government was happy that Breeze FM had been able over the past ten years not only to provide information to the people of Eastern province who previously had little access to information.
"This is important for us because we want to enhance public participation in all aspects of this country's governance and economic development, "Mr Malupenga said.
He said the Government through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services granted Breeze FM a license to start its test transmission on 5th October 2002 and later granted a full broadcasting license on 31st January 2003.
Eastern Province acting Deputy Permanent Secretary Zechariah Luhanga said Breeze FM has also contributed significantly to the development of not only Chipata but the province as a whole.
With its moto, Breeze FM lifting the spirit of the people, the Chipata based radio station is now connected to internet which people rather followers can listen to the radio via internet everywhere.