By Ronald Musoke
television stations that will not comply with the Uganda Communications Commission’s (UCC) recent directive of having at least 70% local content aired during prime time risk being switched off come January, 2014.
Godfrey Mutabazi, UCC’s executive director, made the bold remark while attending a session on film financing on the penultimate day of the five-day Uganda Film festival organized by UCC in Kampala between Aug. 26—30.
Mutabazi was prompted to make the remark after learning from Margaret Mathore, a content buyer for Multichoice’s Africa Magic channels—a South African cable company— that during the course of 2012, over 60 movies were bought from Uganda and showcased on Africa Magic’s eight channels.
Mutabazi who thought of Mathore’s information as refreshing also found it confusing considering that a day earlier; he had been told [by local television executives] that the local television channels were not interested in buying local content because it was of poor quality.
However, the local film makers told Mutabazi that the issue was not quality but rather, the local television stations do not want to pay for the local content.
In May, UCC directed local television broadcasters to prioritize local content over foreign content in a move aimed at promoting national identity and culture.
UCC said free to air television licensees must ensure that an average of 70% of its programming during primetime (6PM—11PM) consists of Ugandan content.
Of the 70% content required by UCC, 50% must feature drama, comedy and reality show programmes, while 10% should be reserved for local documentary programmes, 5% for sports and 5% for children’s programmes.
“Come January, if the 70% of local content is not on local television, we shall close them down,” Mutabazi said.
He told the local film makers that UCC‘s film festival was the start of a long journey in which the government is going to work closely with them to boost the industry. Mutabazi added that UCC was working to waive taxes on filming equipment just like a waiver was put on broadcast equipment.
He also promised the local film makers financial support with effect from the next financial year (2013/2014). He said within UCC’s budget, a fund will be created to enable the local film industry take off.
During the session, Neil Schell, a Kenya-based Canadian director and producer advised the enthusiastic Ugandan film makers to always consider their projects as a business from which they can make money.
By doing this, he said, their audience would always be in their mind, which would lead to quality work.
“When you make a film with your audience in mind, you put a lot into it and it should pay off.”
He also tipped the local movie makers to go professional. A good start, he said, would be educating themselves about how to write compelling business plans which could attract finding from interested parties.
Schell also advised the Ugandan film makers to start considering the market outside their borders for their content.
Rosie Motene, a South African actress added that the Ugandan film makers should also make use of the internet and consider crowd funding to finance their film making ventures.
However, she cautioned them, saying crowd funding is incredibly difficult. One way of making it easy is by building good relationships within the industry.
“Do research; get immersed in a lot of paperwork… It might be tedious but it pays off in the long run,” she said.
Femi Odugbemi, a Nigerian veteran film maker who has been making movies for the last 25 years also had more practical advice for his Ugandan counterparts starting out.
As a movie maker, he said, you need to have a thick skin for all the criticism that will come your way.
“And because you need to do so much with so little (resources), the personality of the movie maker is their greatest asset. If you are arrogant, you are going to pay top premium for a lot of things,” he said.
The UCC held the festival with the intention of showcasing what the industry is doing and at the same time focus attention to all the other facets of the industry.
During the five-day event, trainings, exhibition, workshops and forums to discuss various aspects affecting the film industry in Uganda were held.