The Uganda Communications Commissions (UCC) has found five Kampala based broadcasters culpable of breaching minimum broadcasting standards and asked them to show cause why their licenses shouldn't be revoked.
The broadcasters include NTV, NBS, BBS, Bukedde TV and Radio Sapientia.
This follows an investigation into the alleged breach of minimum broadcasting standards by six TV stations and seven radio stations, whose content allegedly contradicted minimum broadcasting standards enshrined in Section 31 and Schedule 4 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013. The affected stations included NBS TV, BBS TV, NTV, Bukedde TV, Kingdom TV and Salt TV, Radio Two-also known as Akaboozi FM, Beat FM, Capital FM, Pearl FM, Sapientia FM and Radio Simba.
UCC argued that the stations breached standards through their live coverage of events that surrounded the arrest of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, in April and May 2019. The communications regulator argued that the broadcasts contained a misrepresentation of information, views, facts and events in a manner that was likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public.
UCC equally accused the media houses of airing programmes that have extremist or anarchic messages and inciting the public against other members of the public based on their political, religious, cultural and tribal affiliations which are likely to create public insecurity or violence. The affected stations were asked to have their producers, editors and heads of programmes step aside to protect the public against the risk of further breach of the law and standards, and to ensure smooth investigations.
From the report's findings, most of the broadcasters investigated were found to have been in breach of various laws, standards and license terms and conditions and non-compliance with the Press and Journalists Act. The broadcasters were also faulted for having no sufficient safeguards in their editorial policies to address conflict of interest of staff.
The report now recommends that Radio Sapientia, Bukedde TV, NTV, NBS TV and BBS are given the notice to show cause why their licenses should not be revoked having been found culpable for contravening minimum broadcasting standards. The 52-page report also recommended that the said stations train their news reporters, producers and editors in professional reporting, emphasizing key provisions of the law and the standards.
NBS and NTV, in particular, have been asked to demonstrate that they have adequate measures in place "to ensure that news reporters, anchors, producers and editors remain impartial and non-partisan in the course of their work."
It further recommended that Salt TV, Capital FM, CBS and Radio Simba be cautioned.
The report recommends the suspension of "The Inside Story", a programme on Pearl FM, which, according to the investigators was singled out for not being well structured, yet its host does not seem to have credible sources for the information upon which the show is based.
The report says that if the show is not redefined and adequate controls put in place, it is likely to alarm the public and become a platform for fueling political propaganda, which can result in violence. It recommends that the programme be immediately suspended until Pearl FM can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Commission that it has instituted adequate measures to improve it.
However, the investigators established that Kingdom TV had no news bulletin on the said date, although the report put the station on the spot for failing to notify UCC about changes in its programming.
"The allegations against Kingdom TV were not backed by adequate evidence to warrant further investigation," the report says. However, the station was reminded that under the terms and conditions of its license, they ought to notify the Commission of any significant changes in their programming.
Although there was no evidence of breach against Radio Two Akaboozi and Beat FM, the stations were faulted for failing to install pre-listening and delay devices and contravening the Press and Journalists Act. However, the report recommends no action against the two radio stations.
The report clarifies that the directive to order individual producers, editors and heads of news to step aside to was an administrative measure backed by relevant laws.
"The directive was never intended to stifle any particular person's right. This was a purely administrative measure... deemed necessary for purposes of protecting the public against the potential continued risk of harmful content produced, edited and presented to the public by the same individuals that were subject of the investigations," the report says.