KAMPALA — The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) early this month issued new sponsorship and advertising guidelines to broadcasters –putting an end to what the regulator described as excessive manipulation of consumers.
UCC also protested the high-level influence on editorial content by sponsors/advertisers saying that broadcasters had continued to change media outputs to suit their sponsors’ interests.
UCC in a statement said “broadcasters must ensure that the editorial integrity of their programming is not influenced by the sponsor.”
The regulator also banned sponsorship of news, current affairs and religious services on both radio and television.
A programme is deemed sponsored if any part of its costs of production, acquisition or transmission is met through payment or other valuable reward to the broadcaster largely to promote the sponsors’ name, image, product, activities or services.
According to UCC, news items such as flashes, bulletin headlines, and top stories, special and breaking news must not be sponsored.
UCC also ordered media houses to distinguish advertisements from editorial content especially if they use a situation, performance or style reminiscent of editorial content that might prevent the audience from quickly recognizing the message as an advertisement.
The directive however received a backlash on social media, forcing PML Daily to hit the street – finding out people’s opinions on the matter.
We interviewed business people, executives, long time media practitioners, media scholars and content consumers.
Here are their various opinions
John Baptist Imokola – The policy is good to protect the audience, who has been taken for granted by many media houses for long. So, the spirit is good.
The challenge is how it is being implemented. UCC needs to explain to the broadcasters why this is done and buy them in, instead of just issuing orders. Despite the fact that the regulation is necessary, meetings and sensitization should be done to the relevant stakeholders, and probably their views taken into consideration.
In the recent past, UCC has implemented some good policies like the one on local content quotas, banning of traditional healers advertising, etc. But they have faced resistance because broadcasters and some members of the public have not understood the why.
John Baptist Imokola, Former Head of News at NBS TV, WBS and Record TV.
Irene Kiiza – I think objectivity doesn’t require someone to sponsor or not to sponsor. The objectivity of journalists remains otherwise there wouldn’t be news. We have many sponsors and the news is about those very sponsors. Because they sponsor different things not only the news. If somebody is my client even if they are not sponsoring news, I would favor them or not favor them. So what UCC needs to understand is the cost of running a media business in this country. Even UCC knows that it’s not easy to pay journalists, paying taxes, the subscriptions and all of sorts. Every media house everywhere in the world survives on advertisements and sponsorships. So, why should you tell me that they shouldn’t sponsor me? I don’t know where it came from. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Irene Kiiza is a media practitioner for long.
Ritah Kawedde – I don’t think it’s a good move. How will companies survive in terms of paying workers, taxes and rent? On that, they should allow TV and Radio stations at least 20 minutes of adverts. But for sponsoring news, I agree. That section should remain independent as possible.
Ritah Kawedde is a marketer and a consumer.
Dr. Gerald Walulya – This in my opinion is a good step in regulating media houses. Over the years, TV and radio stations have been taking viewers and listens for granted by providing sponsored information in form of news
Many radio and TV stations in Kampala and up country have paid for talk shows which defeats the whole idea of having such shows.
These are issues that UCC should have been dealing with on a regular basis rather than the politicking that we have normally known UCC for.
Whereas we have seen the guidelines, we now wait to see if UCC can actually enforce them.
He is the author of “Reporting corruption and media ownership in Africa.”
Edison Lubwama — Some media even adopted this business of running adverts and the time dedicated to crucial matters remains very – very little. But still it is the audience that gives those media house the adverts which they want conveyed. It’s the demand from the audience that makes those media houses go wild. Most of the media houses in Uganda are privately owned and any private firm in that setting is there to maximize profits hence the many adverts. But to be clear, I think Mutabazi’s directive is favorable and called for in that perspective. (Edison Lubwama is a consumer and businessman)
Agnes Grace Nabachwa — I see many media houses close business because that’s how many raise resources to pay their staff. However, it’s timely and helpful to the content consumers. There are times we would hardly distinguish an advert and a programme. Many brand managers have been manipulating the media and journalists for money and airplay at peak hours/time. (Ms. Agnes Grace Nabachwa is Social Worker and content consumer)
Dr. William Tayeebwa— Sponsored news totally clouds objectivity. It’s impossible to report truthfully on someone sponsoring you. For once the UCC is on the right track. Let’s hope they enforce because that is always a challenge. However, broadcasters will most likely push back because their survival largely depends on advertising revenue. The UCC should reciprocate by giving tax breaks or license fees waivers to broadcasters. Otherwise most will be driven out of business without sponsorship and no tax breaks. (Chair, Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University).
Franklin Bougeup MBA – If you’re a news broadcaster, normally the news content is the significant part of what you’re broadcasting. Obviously, your revenue is generated from the publicity but when the publicity becomes more than the news itself, then your audience is being cheated. The public understands that you’re supposed to run adverts but if everything is adverts and adverts, then that’s a problem. When I tune for news, I want to listen to news but if every second you’re out for publicity, it becomes a significant problem. But there should be a right balance. The regulator has played its role because there’s only two ways to sort this out. To avoid the news which is difficult consumers because you want to hear the news. Another thing is to wait because you know that the regulator who represents our interests is watching.
But there should be a right balance. The regulator should ensure that this happens because the media survives on publicity.
Franklin Bouguep is Executive Director, SOLID ROCK – Life & Business Uganda.
Doreen Buwuule – Surely, how controversial this directive is, some media houses make it worse. You realize that on some media outlets, adverts take about 90% of their time. The truth is that very little time is dedicated to content/news.
Doreen Buwuule is a consumer.
Nelson Mandela – As far as journalism is concerned, media houses are entitled to consider their audiences as the first priority thus giving them what they deserve to the fullest.
But today in Uganda, there’s no dependency as every bit is sponsored including news bulletin something that with no doubt has greatly impacted negatively the sense of news.
To me it is a good move for the regulator to intervene, with not only setting up the rules but also to implement them.
Nelson Mandela is a content consumer