World Association of News Publishers

About 8% of Zambia's Media Cuts Jobs, Salaries Due to COVID-19 Reveals FPI Survey

About 8% of Zambia's Media Cuts Jobs, Salaries Due to COVID-19 Reveals FPI Survey

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The Free Press Initiative (FPI) met with Information and Broadcasting Minister, Honourable Dora Siliya, last week to present a position paper based on findings from a survey commissioned with support from the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), to ascertain how media houses, as business entities, were surviving in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

40 different media organisations participated (Radio, TV, Newspapers, Magazines), among them ZNBC, Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia, Daily Nation, News Diggers, The Mast, Hot FM, QTV, Muvi TV, Diamond TV, Live Radio, The Globe, Solwezi Today, Radio Icengelo, Breeze FM, Zambezi FM, and New Vision.

The core objective was to have a well-balanced representation from traditional media that is currently feeling the pinch of the economic downturn worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The feedback reveals deep concerns about the future of the news media, post-COVID-19 and relative to worldwide trends with regard to the industry.



Findings indicate that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the revenue of media houses due to the following reasons:

  • Reduced sales of hard copy newspapers in the case of print media;
  • Reduced revenue due to reliable advertising clients closing shop;
  • Reduced advertising revenue due to a general downturn in economic activities;
  • Reduced revenue due to donation of free airtime supporting government efforts to deal with the pandemic, while revenue collection from credit sales was drastically reduced due to the closure of some client companies.

The survey further revealed that media houses were generally unprepared for the challenges that would arise as a result of the pandemic. As much as 84.64% of the respondents reported that they were not prepared for the pandemic while 15.8% indicated average preparedness.

Media houses have had to adjust their operations in order to counter the negative effects of the pandemic on revenue.  Salary and job cuts were affected by 7.69% of the respondents, 38% had staff take time off work without pay, and 23% downsized operations.

The survey also revealed that 46% of respondents reported having undertaken various other interventions including: staff working half days; adapting and creating inventive ways of generating income; reducing the number of pages to save on production costs; delayed salaries; and no overtime pay.

The survey has further revealed that the government supported only 23% of the media houses with relief packages to counter the effects of COVID-19 and keep the media houses afloat. More than 76% of the respondent media houses did not receive any form of financial support from the government.

The general feeling among media houses was that government support to the industry to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic was inadequate. Only 33% of the respondents reported that the support was adequate while 66% felt that government intervention was insufficient.



Three strategic areas have been identified as the focus for intervention and they call for action from both the media houses and the government:

  1. Resilience - This calls for action that preserves cash, gives confidence to customers and employees and ensures business continuity. The course of action focuses on managing customers, cash, costs and capital;
  2. Recovery - This strategic action point entails surviving and making it past the downturn through performance improvement.
  3. New Reality - For media houses to position themselves competitively, they need to focus on moving from the short-term challenges to recovery and embrace the new reality brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Suggested strategies include identifying opportunities to inspire both customer and staff confidence through a quick return to normal schedule of activities while implementing recommended safety protocols and other measures, embracing the work-from-home model to save both costs and time, and embracing technologies that can help institutions

The interventions on the part of media houses undertaken in order to stay afloat and embrace the new reality entail not only foregoing income to preserve the customer base but also added costs of reorganisation. Media houses are already cash-strapped due to limited avenues for revenue generation.

As shown, about 70% of media houses have had no support from either the government or the private sector. Despite these challenges, media houses have cooperated with government in disseminating awareness messages about the Coronavirus pandemic pro bono.

“While we appreciate Minister Siliya’s positive sentiments that the media can also access COVID relief funds, we are unsure of how this will pan out because every other sector is fighting for the same support,” said FPI’s Joan Chirwa, who attended the meeting with Minister Siliya.

“What will help will be to have a separate package specifically for media under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, in the same way the Youth Relief Fund was allocated.”

Government and private sector support is critical to ensure survival during the pandemic as well as long-term sustainability. Support packages have a relatively quick impact and can in the short-term free up cash following the drop in revenue during the pandemic. However, it must be stressed that that interventions from government should be free of political interference to ensure media houses remain objective in carrying out their assignments.

The support should reflect the important role that the industry plays in supporting government effort through reliable information dissemination.

The government can also ensure the long-term survival of media houses through tax holidays, waiver of statutory obligations, and reduced duty on imported inputs.

It is hoped that with this support, media houses can effectively deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic and at the same time be better positioned to withstand future shocks to the industry.

The FPI is organizing further engagement and consultation with industry players to reach consensus on what will work best for the media.


Issued by Joan Chirwa
FPI Zambia Founder and Coordinator / Chair, WAN-IFRA Media Freedom Committee Zambia


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2020-08-25 16:03

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...