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PiMA Working Paper #5

The political economy of sponsored call-in radio in Zambia 
Alastair Fraser (University of Cambridge)

PiMA Working Paper 5
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This working paper provides a context for the assessment of hopes that there might be a transformation in political accountability in Africa as a result of previously powerless and voiceless populations having their agendas strengthened via interactive media. It describes the ways in which many radio programmes, on which the voices of audience members are heard live on air, are brought into being through the ‘sponsorship’ of groups that already have significant power and voice. These include political parties, foreign aid donors, and local and international Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), all of which have incentives to use interactive media as a tool of evangelism – to secure public engagement with, and endorsements for, their preferred visions. Using the case of Zambia, it emphasises the negotiating strategies that journalists and station owners deploy to secure resources while maintaining space to allow hosts and audience members, rather than solely sponsors, to shape the agenda of on-air discussions.