“we pay annual licence of 10 million shillings to UCC and pay heavily to meet costs of operation, yet we do not get adverts to sustain our business. That’s why majority have resorted to witch doctors….”
The Human Rights Committee of Parliament has learnt that majority of media houses across the country are struggling to sustain their operations due to the rising costs of running business, and the high level of competition in the broadcasting industry.
In an interaction with broadcasters under their umbrella body NAB, legislators heard that a big number of media houses are at the brink of winding up business, while those in rural areas have resorted to selling airtime to witch doctors and local pastors as a means to save their businesses.
The broad casters said that witch doctors and pastors are the only ones who can now manage to pay for airtime on airwaves, and therefore the only remaining source of survival for their businesses.
“we pay annual licence of 10 million shillings to UCC and pay heavily to meet costs of operation, yet we do not get adverts to sustain our business. That’s why majority have resorted to witch doctors and pastors. They are the only ones that pay some money which keep us running” said Mr. Julius Tumusiime the Chairperson Uganda Rural Media Broadcasters’ Association.
Commercial media houses largely depend on adverts for survival in business.
The meeting with the Parliamentary Committee was prompted by submissions of Journalists under Uganda Journalists Association who appealed to parliament to intervene in the welfare of Journalists which threatens the survival of the industry.
Among the pleas presented by UJA and UHRNJ is the economic rights relating to poor remuneration of journalists, sexual harassment at work, safety on the front-line, harassment they suffer from security agencies, and the harsh regulations slapped on media houses by UCC the industry regulator.
“some journalists are not paid, others are not given employment contracts, while those who are paid receive peanuts. this has a grave negative effect on their ability to work professionally and therefore we urge parliament to take keen interest in how media houses carrying operating licenses treat their employees” a statement by UHRNJ read in part.
As if to reaffirm the harsh environment the journalists are operating in, Tumusiime intimated that majority of rural media houses can no longer afford to pay salaries for staff; citing a case of radio managers getting as low as 200,000= a month while lower staff are left to survive on handouts from news sources.
The statement also highlighted an appeal to have several media laws amended to facilitate a conducive environment for media practitioners, and review of UCC’s mandate in its regulation role of the industry.
The Chairperson of the Committee Hon. Nantume Egunyu promised the appellants that all their pleas will be compiled in a report which will be tabled in Parliament for debate on way forward.