Uganda: Media Houses Want Shs15b Monthly for COVID-19 Publicity

Media houses under their umbrella body National Association of Broadcasters (NABs), have asked government to make a monthly contribution of Shs15b for the next three months to sustain awareness about Covid-19.

In a March 21 letter to the Minister of ICT, the broadcasters said failure by government to make the contribution will see the free airtime and space being given to disseminate information about the virus suspended.

"We are shutting down this free government airtime. We need government's financial support to stay afloat and keep the message alive," the letter signed by Mr Kin Kariisa, the NABs chairperson, reads in part.

The broadcasters also said the heavy expenses being incurred during the lockdown is forcing members to close at a time when public needs them.

"With NABs penetration rate of 99 per cent across Uganda through radio, TVs and online, it is our obligation to ensure that correct information and accurate messages are passed on to people in this fight against coronavirus," the letter states.

They said the closure of their operations will compromise the fight against the coronavirus.

The media houses also asked for talks with government to discuss logistical and financial operations so that journalists and other internal operations continue.

They further appealed to government to pay them their arreas.

"As concerns arrears to the media houses, government owes our members up to Shs13b accruing from as far back as 2018," NABs said.

The media houses also asked that Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and Licence and UBC carriage fees be deferred or reduced for radio and TV stations across the country.

Each radio station pays an average of Shs17.5m annual licence fees and $1,300 (Shs4.8m) monthly mast rental fees to UBC.

Attempts to reach the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Ms Judith Nabakooba, were futile as she did not pick our repeated calls or respond to messages sent to her. Her deputy, Mr Peter Ogwang, said he was in a meeting and could not talk to us.

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