News for children (and adults) in Zambia

The youth news bulletin Z Kids News is the only news programme in Zambia geared towards young viewers. Established in 2006 as a local WADADA member, today, Z Kids News offers around 500,000 children a daily mix of news items, opinion features and stories that are attuned to a younger audience.

Nearly half the population of Zambia is under the age of 15. “Particularly in a country like ours, which is home to so many young people and where access to education is far from universal, news programmes for children can help them learn new things,” says Costa Mwansa, General Director of Muvi TV, the Zambian station responsible for broadcasting the programme. “And not just children,” he adds. “This also includes adults who have never been to school.”

Taken off the air

Z Kids News wants to offer children professional and reliable tailor-made news. This isn’t always easy. In August 2016, it became clear that press freedom is under considerable pressure in Zambia when Z Kids News was suddenly taken off the air. The Zambia Ministry of Information revoked the broadcasting licence of Muvi TV and two radio stations. The entire workforce was suspended. This measure was taken in response to Muvi TV’s allegedly ‘unprofessional’ conduct before and during the Zambian presidential elections that month. According to Muvi TV, while their coverage of the elections was balanced, it didn’t always show the incumbent government in the best of light. According to the opposition, the licences were revoked to stifle independent media reporting.

In September 2016, this lockdown was lifted again, and Z Kids News was able to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. It can also look back on quite a few years of financial self-sufficiency – although the youth news bulletin will continue to make use of the facilities of the WADADA network. According to presenter Siphiwe Mphanza, the programme has also led to positive government actions. “We made a number of items about the lack of playgrounds in Zambia. Children are angry about this. Ultimately, the government responded by building a couple of new playgrounds.”

News for young viewers is being taken more seriously

Z Kids News also has an impact on regular media channels – as became clear in 2012, when the Media Institute of Southern Africa called the programme a ‘shining example’. According to the Institute, Z Kids News clearly shows why news is important for children. The makers of Z Kids News are proud of this acknowledgement: “Since then, we have also seen that journalists in other media are taking youth-oriented news coverage more seriously.”

In the years ahead, Z Kids News intends to convince an even larger audience of its importance. Particularly in rural areas, where children are difficult to reach because they don’t have access to television or the internet. But Z Kids News may have a solution: use solar panels to broadcast its youth news bulletins.

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