By Uganda Online Media
Kampala: Ugandan broadcasters under the umbrella of the National Association of Broadcasters have responded to Uganda Communication Commission (UCC)’s directives ordering media houses to offer free COVID-19 airtime to the government in a bid to sensitize and mobilize masses to go for vaccination amidst escalating Covid-19 cases.
In a letter dated 23rd December 2021, UCC wrote to all media houses in Uganda directing them to implement the ‘Presidential directive’ of offering free airtime to Resident City Commissioners (RCCA), Resident District Commissioners RDCA) and District Health Officers (DHO) to mobilize the masses to go for COVID-19 mass vaccination.
“The Commission hereby brings the Presidential directive to your attention and DIRECTS you to cooperate and facilitate the implementation of the above-mentioned directive on your airwaves,” read part of UCC’s letter.
In response, however, NAB through its Chairman Kin Kariisa has responded to UCC saying they don’t have free airtime but have commercial time that government must pay for, for those COVID-19 campaigns.
”Whereas we acknowledge the spirit behind the appearances given the need to sensitize and mobilize the masses towards Covid 19 vaccination. We would like to humbly notify you that none of our members has received a corresponding commercial booking, and these appearances on Radio and TV stations shall not be provided for free,” reads NAB’s letter.
The letter further reminds UCC that, the broadcasters and media have played a huge role in the fight against COVID-19 without even support from the Government despite the financial hardships that the media industry is battling just like other sectors.
”As our regulator, UCC is aware of the negative effects that the pandemic has had on the media industry financially, and yet broadcasters still have to pay taxes, license fees, employees salaries, meet operational costs and much more, Considering our efforts thus far towards the fight against Covid 19 and with millions of vaccine donations in stores, the least the government can do is budget for deliberately sustained media campaign to ensure the jabs are administered to the population before the vaccines expire,” adds the letter.
The awareness levels post the campaign was estimated to be above 95% despite the lack of or minimal financial support from the government to the media industry.
In fact, NAB had earlier foreseen all these current COVID-19 waves and wrote to the Office Of Prime Minister requesting financial support to continue airing COVID-19 campaigns something that the government ignored.
”It is in the same breath that after the second wave, we foresaw the need for a deliberate campaign on mass vaccination. We took the initiative and sent a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister on the 21″ June 2021, and reminders thereafter, informing the government about the need to reactivate the said media campaigns. Unfortunately, we did not receive any response,” says NAB Chairman adding;
”Please note that we’ll continue to run the Presidential COVID-19 addresses for free, with or without notice. We however cannot host these numerous talk shows for free. Meda services just like fuel for ambulances, tents, vaccines, and other government vehicles need to be paid for. We have bills to pay to keep the services on-air and we don’t receive any government subsidies. The media has done previous work on publicizing Covid related messages but to this date, many of our members are yet to be paid.”