The Electronic Media Statute of 1996 guides the Broadcast Media. According to the most reliable source for broadcast news, this statute repeals the earlier Cinematography Act and Television Licensing Act. It amends and consolidates previous statutes relating to broadcasting in particular, the Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Act. The right to broadcast is guaranteed by the statute. The Act states: “No person
shall, on the ground of content of program, take any action not authorized under the statute or any law to prevent the broadcasting of the program.” Moral constraints limit what may be broadcast, and according the statute, producers must be at least 18 years old.The Statute created a regulatory authority for electronic media, the Broadcasting Council. This body is responsible for the licensing and operations of radio and television; publishing a code of ethics for broadcasters in consultation with the Media Council; and standardizing, planning and managing the frequency spectrum in the public interest so as to ensure its optimal utilization and the widest possible variety of programming, including incentive payments where appropriate to ensure provision of broadcasting to rural remote areas. The Council is also charged with licensing and operations of cinematography theaters and videotape libraries.
The Uganda Communication Commission was established by parliament and is responsible for allocation of frequencies to operators who have been approved licensed by the Broadcasting Council.
The leading broadcasters are Uganda Television and Radio Uganda, both government stations. Radio Uganda has other subsidiaries, such as Star FM, Radio Freedom, and the Green Channel. The competition for listeners is stiff in Kampala. But Radio Uganda’s broadcasts reach outside Kampala, where private FM stations cannot reach, offering the government-run station a significant advantage. Within Uganda there are approximately 108 radio receivers for every 1,000 people and 26 television sets for every 1,000 people. The airwaves were liberalized in 1994 when private stations like Capital FM and Sanyu FM started their broadcasts. Capital FM has spread its wings to other parts of the country and four other towns. It plays a lot of popular Western music, which appeals to a youthful audience. News and some talk shows are also aired. Capital FM dominates morning programs with its popular show “Alex and Christine in the Morning,” which runs from 7:00 am to 10:00 am every Monday to Friday. Another popular program with wide listenership is the “Capital Gang” that runs every Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. It usually has government officials, donors, and members of civil society who discuss public policy issues in the news. President Museveni has been to the Capital gang twice. It usually includes a live phone-in opportunities for the public audience. Sanyu FM, another Kampala station, is as old as the Capital FM. It has a strong signal and plays the latest music from around the world. Jazz and classical music lovers are among the station’s listeners as well as the country’s urban-bred youth. These private FM stations operate 24 hours a day. Since privatization in 1994, approximately 70 licenses have been issued, although not all have become operational. Nonetheless, five television stations have begun broadcasting as a result of liberalization.
State-owned Uganda Television (UTV) dominates the country’s television broadcasting primarily because its signal covers about 60 percent of the country and provides the best picture and sound quality of all active Ugandan stations. UTV broadcasts 12 hours a day and approximately 40 percent of the programming content is foreign-based. In the early 2000s a new private station, the Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS), entered the market. Focused on creative news and entertainment programs, some of its content is locally produced, including two of popular shows, Showtime Magazine and Jam Agenda . WBS broadcasts for 18 hours each day and airs Cable News Network every morning.
Airing some local religious programming, Lighthouse Television depends mainly on relaying programs from the U.S.-based Trinity Broadcasting Network. Its 24-hour broadcasting format consists of religious programming and 90 minutes of CNN. In general, television reaches its highest level of viewership from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The peak time of viewing is 9:00 p.m. TV Africa, which now airs 24-hours a day in Uganda, has also taken a share of Uganda’s television audience. Broadcasting from South Africa, the station’s signal is not as good as UTV and WBS, but still offers Ugandan’s another choice of stations with quality programming.
Pay television also exists in Uganda. Still limited to the country’s small privileged class, Digital Satellite Television is beamed from South Africa into at least 400 Ugandan homes.
Private broadcasters complain about the high fees charged by government for the license to operate.
Electronic News Media
The Uganda Communication Commission issues the licenses for electronic media operations. Despite being a very new forum for the media, Uganda has 2,000 Internet service providers and 40,000 Internet users. Several newspapers, including New Vision and the Monitor , maintain Web sites.
Education & Training
The level of education for Uganda’s journalists is increasing. Requirements for membership in the National Institute of Journalists of Uganda have pushed several practicing journalists back to school to improve their academic qualifications. Continuous training is also being increasingly emphasized. Specialization is encouraged in fields such as business journalism and environmental reporting. The Mass Communication Program at Makerere University offered the first journalism degree in the country in 1988. The Uganda Management Institute’s School of Journalism also offers a degree program; however, in the 2000s, the school was under threatening to close due to financial difficulties. Other schools, including the Uganda Christian University, also offer journalism programs. Every year at least 150 new journalists enter the job market.
The National Institute of Journalists of Uganda, the Uganda Journalists Association, the Uganda Sports Press Association, the Uganda Press Photographers Association, and the Uganda Media Women’s Association all serve to monitor and improve professional journalistic standards. The East Africa Media Institute and the Commonwealth Journalists Association are the newest additions to Uganda’s professional organizations. Yet another global grouping with membership in Uganda is the U.K-based World Association of Christian Communication. Reporters Without Borders and the Uganda Journalists Safety Committee address concerns regarding journalists’ welfare, including assistance for imprisoned journalists.
Since the process of liberalizing the media industry started in 1994, Uganda has experienced an increase in the number of press and media outlets, especially in the broadcast media. Although print media still experience difficulties in increasing readership, the broadcast media maintains a strong and stable viewer base. Competition is stiff but most media are active and prospering. Because Uganda is a developing country, issues of poverty, HIV/ AIDS, and governance are critical. The media play a crucial role in improving the welfare of the people by highlighting the issues and increasing the level of public debate. The country continues to lack a Freedom of Information Act, needed to balance the playing field between the government and the press and to assist the press in fulfilling the role as a watchdog for government corruption. Since the end of Amin’s regime in the mid-1980s, press freedom has improved. Journalists commonly work without harassment; however, occasionally reporters are pressured and even imprisoned. The Media and Broadcast Council, which exists to service and regulate the media industry, has proven weak and ineffective. In general, the 1995 constitution is well written, but advances in press freedoms must continue to provide the country with the full services and potential of the services its media outlets can provide.