10 February 2013

Rwanda: Transfer of Parliament Radio to Orinfor Questioned

During President Kagame's latest press conference, the managing editor of Isango Star radio, Jean-Lambert Gatari decried the fact that some public institutions (Revenue Authority and National Police) were making plans to start their own radio station, as Parliament had already done. "I don't think there is a room for competition especially for us the private Radio owners who rely on public institutions' adverts and partnership to survive. We have no capacity to compete with the state," Gatare observed.

The President agreed, saying that public institutions should not own their own radio station but make use of the national broadcaster Orinfor or private ones. He did not buy into the argument of Local Government Minister James Musoni (also responsible for media), who explained that Parliament was given permission to have its own station so that it could broadcast the debates in the House.

As a result, last week parliament's Inteko radio was transferred to Orinfor. "We were requested to merge our radio with Orinfor as they are both public broadcasters," said Senate president Jean-Damascene Ntawukuliryayo, who reiterated that the station was established to broadcast parliament debates live.

However, not everyone thinks this was a good move. "I agree with the President's argument of all the public institutions using Orinfor, but transferring this Inteko to them is wrong," observed an MP who requested anonymity. "How can an institution which has been accused of mismanagement for the last ten years be given other institutions to handle? In my view, the radio's equipments and other items can be given to ORINFOR but not the management and the budget. And if the radio is to close, then let it be so without playing around with these Orinfor transfers."

However, the national broadcaster's acting director general, Willy Rukundo, doesn't see a problem. "It would have been an issue if Inteko didn't have its own staff members. It's only a matter of where they are reporting, the budget stays in parliament."

The move comes at a time when Orinfor is scheduled to become the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) which, according to officials, which will no longer be a state agency but a public broadcasting group for the purpose of serving public interest.

As the law establishing RBA states, 20% of its shares will be held by the State, 80% by private investors; this will enable RBA to run its activities without Government interference.

RBA will be the second semi-autonomous broadcasting body in East Africa Community, after the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).

The RBA bill was approved by the chamber of deputies on November 13 last year.

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