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Behind the silence: Why radio stations avoided Africa Climate Summit

By Media Monitoring Team

The Africa Climate Summit 2023 held at KICC Nairobi was a momentous event that garnered global attention, brought together world leaders, scientists, activists and policy makers to discuss the pressing issue of climate change and its impacts on the content. However, a concerning trend emerged during our monitoring period: Most local radio stations barely covered the event, often limiting their reporting to news highlights without delving deeper or hosting discussions on this critical issue.

In an effort to understand the reasons behind this lack of interest, we engaged with several station managers including Moses Munyoki from Radio Yetu in Nakuru County, Thiiri FM’s Gervasio Mithika in Meru County, Charles Adika from Kalya FM in West Pokot, Marcus Kemboi from Sayare Radio in Uasin Gishu and Kelvin Lunani from Radio Safari in Trans Nzoia County. Here we explore the challenges faced by local radio stations and their insights into why the ACS 2023 was not given the attention it deserved.

One of the primary challenges highlighted by the radio bosses was the constraints of finances. This is because the stations operate on very tight budgets, and covering an event of this magnitude can be costly. Expenses such as travel, accommodation, and equipment can quickly add up, making it challenging for these stations to allocate resources to cover the summit. To improve the situation, the managers stated that it is necessary to provide financial support to local stations, either through sponsorship or grants designated for coverage of such important events.

Another reason was the complexity of the subject. Climate change is a highly technical and scientific subject, with a range of specialised terms that are unfamiliar to the average listener. Most local radio stations do not have dedicated journalists with in-depth knowledge of climate change and its implications. As a result, they lacked the necessary expertise to adequately explain key concepts to their audiences in a way that is accessible and engaging.

Furthermore, these outlets encountered challenges in identifying suitable stories for features and documentaries that would resonate with their audiences in the context of the summit. This difficulty arose because the summit appeared distant and disconnected from the everyday lives of listeners across the regions. To address this issue, the station managers outlined the importance of fostering a deeper understanding of the local implications of significant events on climate change well in advance through awareness and campaigns. By doing so, local stations can produce content that is relevant to their audiences.

Another factor that hindered extensive coverage of the event was the perception that the subject lacked newsworthiness. Local stations are always on the lookout for stories that can capture their audience’s attention and generate interest. Unfortunately, the Africa Climate Summit 2023 was not a “headline grabbing” event that would engage listeners at local levels. This perception might have stemmed from lack of understanding about the potential impact of climate change on local communities or a failure to recognise the global significance of the summit.

Finally, the radio station managers stated that they faced challenges in obtaining timely and reliable information about the summit. This information gap posed a considerable obstacle to their ability to delve into in-depth coverage. They underscored the need for a shift in government’s perception towards local media, which often feel excluded from major events like the Africa Climate Summit. To address this, they called for more training on climate change for local journalists . Such trainings would equip the local media with the necessary knowledge and expertise to effectively cover these events and meaningfully engage their audiences.

In conclusion, the Africa Climate Summit 2023, despite its global significance, suffered from limited coverage by local radio stations. This was largely due to financial constraints, the complexity of climate change terminology, perceptions of relevance, and other challenges. To bridge this gap in future, it is essential to provide training, financial support and early information to local stations, enabling them to play a more active role in communicating vital environmental issues to their audiences.


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