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Free media airtime for gov’t to be streamlined – Nabakooba

The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Judith Nabakooba

Fort Portal, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Judith Nabakooba has promised to work with the relevant bodies to review the guidelines on the mandatory free airtime offered to government in Radio and TV stations.

In 2014, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) issued a guideline requiring all licensed radio and television stations to give a free weekly hour to government officials to talk about government programmes and other issues of national importance.    

This has since become a licensing condition as electronic media owners are required to accept that they will offer one hour during prime time on their stations for the same purpose and other government events like budget reading and presidential speeches.  

During a meeting on Monday, journalists told Nabakooba that the hour is being misused while at the same time it is causing loses to the media industry since it is for free.    

In an event that was held at Nyaika hotel, radio presenters and moderators from Tooro Sub region told Nabakooba that Resident District Commissioners – RDCs have since hijacked the hour and they determine who should use it.   

They also told her that instead of having technical staff in the respective districts use the hour to explain issues that fall under their dockets, the hour is being given to National Resistance Movement – NRM supporters to promote the party agenda.   

Noah Kasangaki from Life FM in Fort Portal told the minister that he resigned from his job of being in charge of moderating guests invited for the free hour because they had stopped him from questioning them during the programmes.

Kasangaki explained that he was hosting the same people all the time and they were lacking information to give to the public, something that forced him to give up on the job.     

Davis Besiga from Voice of Tooro – VOT told Nabakooba that even the NRM supporters who normally utilize the hour after being authorized by RDCs, do not have anything new to tell the public other than praising the party for the past achievements.   

He recommended that the time should be given to the technical people who can ably explain government programmes without going political.   

Nabakooba agreed with the journalists and said that since she had received similar complaints from other parts of the country, the airtime usage will be revised to ensure it is not misused.  

Ibrahim Bbosa, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) consumer affairs manager argued that even when the free airtime seems to have issues, it is necessary because it is aimed at ensuring government programmes are known by the public.   

Bbosa said that electronic media houses have paid a lot of attention to making profits through adverts and paid programmes and have left out the role of informing their audiences about issues of national interest.

Nabakooba was meeting journalists to discuss the challenges they face while doing their work. Some of the challenges the journalists raised included low or no pay, brutality from security agencies, and exorbitant licence fees for radios and other media houses.   

She promised to raise some of the challenges in cabinet for a way forward and also organize capacity building sessions to promote professionalism.



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