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Let’s conduct talk shows properly

TALK shows are an interesting feature on the programme schedules of many of our radio stations in the country.
It is fascinating to notice that the programmes are wide-ranging, catering to the needs of the heterogeneous audiences of the radio stations.
The programmes tackle socio-economic subjects such as sport and the ever-exciting happenings in the political arena.
Those outside the country, with no access to our radio stations, since some of the stations may not be online, must be missing a lot.
The beauty about it is that radio is a medium of communication that is hard to avoid. It is ubiquitous.
For some, listening to radio is done at home as they do chores, especially ladies. others, it is as they drive and others still, as they work in their offices.
Radio is everywhere and people are listening, probably as result of tradition and mere interest.
I commend our radio stations for all their positives. Nonetheless, I have some issues with them.
I have issues with them regarding the conduct of discussion programmes. I need to say that most of our radio stations need to improve the way they handle talk shows, especially live ones.
Please wait a minute, just in case you want to sulk. I’m not writing from without.
Firstly, I have observed on a number of occasions, as a keen follower of socially-enriching programmes, that our presenters or moderators overlook certain fundamental principles of discussion programmes.
Secondly, I have been encouraged by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to make a comment on our radio stations’ handling of discussion programmes.
Just in case we have forgotten, IBA is the sole regulator of radio stations in the country. Therefore, its message through me, of course as a journalist, must be heeded.
The issues I have relate to insufficient research and the habit by some presenters to literally take over the show.
When I wrote against taking the beerhall culture to radio stations, I received a mail from IBA director of Standards and Compliance Eustace Nkandu informing me that the Authority was in agreement with the issues I raised and commended me for it.
The Authority also urged me to tackle the topic I am hammering right now.
It is a shared feeling that the public is not happy with radio stations’ failure to do appreciable research before airing discussion programmes, especially on emotive issues regarding life in Zambia.
It is important that our radio stations plan for the programmes well. I am not a broadcast specialist but I know that the fundamental principle for discussion programmes is research or being well-informed. This is the overarching principle for well-structured discussions.
Maybe our radio stations need to improve the research skills of their staff handling discussion programmes. There’s need to ensure that our presenters handle discussion programmes only when they are ready.
That way avoidable gaps will not weaken the desired impact of their programmes. This is very important because some of the people they invite have such sophisticated knowledge in their fields.
Events have no respect for fields. They happen everywhere, which is why we in the media, particularly those handling live discussion programmes need to be abreast of what is obtaining in our society before venturing to conduct discussions.
A good number of stakeholders are not happy that there is a rush to air discussion programmes among many of our radio stations.
It is difficult to understand that rush. Maybe our radio stations should patiently and effectively prepare for their discussions, which thing the public always anticipates.
It is better to deliver a sound and enriching programme than to rush and botch one. It is up to our radio stations, but stakeholders such as the IBA want to see standards raised as far as discussion programmes are concerned.
Our radio presenters should similarly not spoil programmes by taking up the role of their guests. Their role as professional communicators is to facilitate or moderate discussion, not to rob their guests of the chance to articulate issues.
Radio presenters’ grabbing of their guests’ platform defeat the purpose for featuring them.
It is frustrating to notice presenters going to town, without much authority, on issues while their expert guests listen to them in the hope that there would be a chance for them to comment authoritatively.
I need to make a disclaimer, it is not all presenters doing this, but many of them are and I needed to address the issue, as a fellow media professional, hoping they would listen.
Our radio stations are doing a great work in the socio-economic development of our country, but they need to up their game in certain key areas such as conducting discussion programmes. That will help them to shine better.
Discussions are indeed an interesting feature on the schedules of many of our radio stations countrywide, but let them always impress us as ones conducted by professionals.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor