2 February 2013

Rwanda: Should Govt Institutions Own Radio Stations?

In the recent monthly presidential press conference, President Paul Kagame castigated the act of government institutions owning radio stations.

He said that if one government institution owns a radio station, then all other institutions like Police, Cabinet and ministries will find justification for setting up one so the public can keep informed on what the institutions are doing.

He instead called on them to use the existing media to disseminate any information they would like to pass on to the public.

Jean Lambert Gatare, the director of Isango Star, a privately-owned FM radio station, said that when government institutions own radio stations, it derails the work of private investors since they mostly survive on adverts and talk shows, especially from government institutions.

"If government institutions set up radio stations, then we will be out of business yet we are also investors. For instance, if Police had a radio station and a journalist called in to get some information on something happening at the Police, most likely they will be told to listen to the Police radio station, yet the Police should instead use an existing radio station to disseminate any information they would like to be known," he said.

Gatare also noted that some of the government institutions might even be having magazines where they publish their work but people hardly read them so the best thing to do is use the existing media which already have a wide and targeted audience instead of different institutions having their own stations.

Jesse African, who is the programs and business development manager at Flash FM, said government Institutions shouldn't own radio stations as their work should be policing.

African also advised that it's better for government institutions to utilise the existing media houses instead of setting up their own.

He also observed that the existing government radio station has also not been fully utilised by government bodies and wished it could efficiently utilise those existing instead of having many radio stations.

The chief executive officer of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Professor Anastase Shyaka, said the government has embarked on media reforms to empower the sector, thus helping it become more vibrant.

"The President of Rwanda has set the tone which is in favour of developing private media and we should therefore go by that and ensure that the government policy to empower the sector be the guiding principle," he said, calling for empowering and developing the sector instead of competing with it.

The executive secretary of the Media High Council, Emmanuel Mugisha, was also not in favour of government institutions setting up radio stations, adding that the President gave clear and constructive guidance regarding the issue.

"They should instead make use of the existing media houses instead of every institution trying to set up their own. Frequency is also limited and still a challenge in the country," he added.

Mugisha, however, noted that the media law doesn't give clear provision on the matter as to whether government institutions should or shouldn't get involved in media ownership.

He hastened to add that there are other existing laws to do with investment which might come in handy while discussing this issue.

Oswald Mutuyeyezu, a senior journalist and former chief editor at City Radio, called this act an "unnecessary spending of government money."

He said that it wasn't logical at all for government institutions to own media houses because they would be competing with private investors thus discouraging them.

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