Malawi — One of the latest privately-owned radio stations to
hit the Malawi’s airwaves, Lilongwe-based Dziko FM, is leaving no stone
unturned to find recognition in the country’s competitive radio industry.
“people-centered approach,” more than 100 radio listener clubs have thus far
been formed for the station in nearly all districts of central Malawi. The
groups form around people in a community who listen to a certain radio station
of their choice for a particular reason. The station is also well-known for
promoting local music.
“There is no
magic potion for our success,” said station Founder and Chairman Chikumbutso Mtumodzi,
“we just prioritize people’s interests in all our programming. People want good
content, people want to listen to nice music and people want to feel connected
to what they hear on the radio — so this is what we are doing.”
the radio largely targets rural communities to help them develop and sustain
their cultural values. “For instance we air programs that promote culture, such
as Nyau, a traditional dance of
the country’s largest ethnic group, Chewa.
We play music for different traditional dances. The goal is to encourage and
give them a chance to appreciate their culture,” he said.
to Mtumodzi, the rationale of broadcasting via satellite is to awaken and use modern
changes and advances in information technology.
“We are moving with the changing times.
Satellite reception is clear and we want to give our audience the best sound
quality in addition to good programming,” he said.
Mithi (right) works with
journalists in the
Photo by Lameck Masina
boasts 22 full-time staff members most of them work in shifts. It also has
that have contributed to the station’s popularity include “Kadzutsa” (“Breakfast”), “Umoyo wa Mayi” (“Woman’s Health”), “Mchikumbe pa Ntibu (“A Farmer on
Radio”) and the most popular phone-in program, “Kwachitikanji,” (“What’s Happening”).
In June, however,
the popularity of Kwachitikanji nearly
landed the station into trouble when the Malawi Communications Regulatory
Authority (MACRA) summoned Mtumodzi over the contents of the program, which
MACRA officials claimed breached the broadcasting tenets of “fair play.” MACRA said
that during the program, the station was letting callers use hate speech and
warned Mtumodzi to suspend the phone-in program.
of this, some of the advertisers threatened to withdraw their sponsorship of the
radio programs if the station continued to host opposition politicians and
other government critics who they said talk ill of the government.
“I took that as a disgusting and sad
development,” said Mtumodzi.“We report on anything that concerns the life of a
Malawian. We are not here to please anyone; we are not here to nurse
people’s political egos. We represent the common person.” None of the threats materialized, thanks to fruitful
discussions the radio had with MACRA and with its sponsors.
has long been asking broadcasters airing live phone-in programs to install
profanity delay systems in their studios that would help broadcasters control the
broadcast of hate speech and foul language. Only a few of the country’s stations
make use of the technology however, mainly due to financial constraints.
station’s producer, Thom Ali,
together a program
the production studio. Photo by Lameck Masina
News and current
affairs is another area that has helped the station increase its audience. The
newsroom airs three main news bulletins per day in both the local language,
Chichewa, and English. News briefs and updates are aired every hour.
“We strive to air balanced news that is
important to our audience and without compromise,” said Pamela Mithi, head of the
news and current affairs department.
quality has also helped Dziko FM attract listeners. The station’s engineer,
Norwin Mwamadi, says the station owes this to the gear they have installed. The
station’s on-air studio is fitted with an Allen & Heath ZED-12FX 12-channel
sound console, Behringer HPX2000 headphones and C-3 Behringer condenser mics.
It also makes use of a Fostex PH-5 headphone amplifier, Fostex PM0.4 active
studio monitors and a Barix Extreamer 500 IP audio encoder/decoder. The
production studio is fitted with a Peavey mixer and Behringer headphones.
“The equipment has worked to our
advantage,” commented Mwamadi. “I am told that many listeners tune into our
broadcasts not only for its content but also because of the quality sound. When
we started, we were only heard around [the capital] of Lilongwe. Now we are
planning on expanding our coverage so that we can reach the entire southern
region and southern regions of the country,” he added.