Media in Uganda
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Uganda today has a vibrant media industry. But this has not always been the case. Because of Uganda's unstable political past, media had never had a chance to thrive under the political upheaval and dictatorships of former presidents like Milton Obote and particularly, Idi Amin.
The regime change that came about after Yoweri Museveni took control of the country in 1986 brought with it a lot of promise. Media freedom and progress was among those promises. Over the last 25 years, there has been significant growth in the media industry of Uganda and a lot of improvement has been made in terms of media freedom. Today, the media industry of Uganda is one of the most active and prosperous sectors of the economy.
There are number of newspapers in Uganda today. The New Vision is Uganda's oldest and leading in English newspapers. It is a state owned newspaper and has the largest nationwide circulation. The Daily Monitor is independent newspaper and second oldest after The New Vision. The two papers dominate the print section of media in Uganda. Over the last decade, as Uganda's political opposition has gained strength, the Monitor newspaper has aligned itself more with the agenda of the opposition to counter the perceived government agenda fronted by the New Vision. This competition many times leads to entirely different aspects getting coverage in the five largest news publications in the country. For example, during the recent 2011 Walk To Work Protests in the country, various government sources accused The Monitor alongside other independent newspapers of having an anti government agenda and favoring the opposition and demonstrators.
Besides these two newspapers, there are also other papers like Bukedde newspaper which is a state owned daily, published in the Luganda language. There is also a daily called Red Pepper that started out as a weekly tabloid but is now one of the leading daily newspapers. Other papers include The Weekly Observer, The Independent, The Razor among others. Tabloids abound, with sensationalism and soft erotica a common theme among tabloids like Onion and Entasi.
Besides newspapers, there are also a number of magazines that come out every month. Bride & Groom is one printed by the state owned New Vision. African Woman is also another popular magazine. Elyte magazine is one of the new entertainment oriented magazines in the country today.
Up until the late 1990s, Uganda had only one television station. It was the state-owned television station called Uganda Television (UTV) now called Uganda Broadcasting Corporation. The first alternative television station in the 1990s was called Sanyu TV. But it did not last long. It was Wavah Broadcasting Television (WBS) that provided a real alternative to UBC sometime in the early 2000s. It opened the way for other stations to join like Lighthouse Television, Bornfree Technologies Network, EATV and Top TV.
Bukedde TV started in 2010 and introduced a popular program, Agataliiko Nfuufu which aired at 10:00 pm everyday. Language used on Bukedde TV is purely Luganda. The arrival of NTV sometime in the mid-2000s made the television space more competitive and led to a further surge in new television stations like Record, NBS and Bukedde. Content on television is mainly entertainment related, with music videos taking up a lot of time on TV. There is also emphasis on political talk shows and news. Prime time news on NTV is very popular, so is "Agataliko Nfuufu" news program on Bukedde.
Uganda is now driving towards migrating from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. The Uganda Communication Commission has launched a country-wide campaign to ensure that users switch to the standard. To access digital TV, users need to have digital-ready TV sets or purchase digital TV decoders. The Commission has licensed upto five firms to sell free-to-air decoders in the country. Users also have the option of subscribing to Digital Pay TV service providers such as DSTV, GoTV, Zuku, SimbaTV and Startimes to access both paid-for and Free-to-air channels. Free-to-air channels include UBC,STAR TV, UBC 24, UBC Magic 1, Bukedde 1, NTV, NBS, WBS, LTV, Miracle, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CCTV,CITIZEN, EATV, CAPITAL, TOP TV, Record TV, Urban TV.
Like in television, radio was dominated by the state owned Radio Uganda up until the early 1990s when the first independent radio stations got licenses to operate. Sanyu fm and Capital fm are among the first and oldest radio stations in Uganda. Gradually other stations have joined the media industry and as of November 2013 there are well over 100 different radio stations on FM alone.
Some other popular stations include CBS, Simba, Super and Dembe. Programming on radio is dominated by music, with most stations following a Top 40 format. Talk shows and comedy are also popular.
Radio is now embracing new kind of media and integrating with other communication channels. For instance Radio stations in Uganda integrate mobile technology in their programming to increase on audience engagement. Listeners can call in to a talk show and contribute their own opinions about what's been talked about.
Radio stations are also using the Internet to widen their reach. Most radio stations use online radio streaming services such as Odyovi, Listenfmradios.com, Streema, UGO to reach wider audiences that traditional broadcasting means don't especially Ugandans in the diaspora.
The internet as a media platform in Uganda is still quite new. Internet penetration levels are still very low when compared to other African countries. The recent Indian Ocean fiber optic cable project brought a lot of optimism and lead to an increased interest in the internet as a media platform. It also led to investment with a number of local telecommunication companies investing into broadband and gprs subscription services. This has led to a surge in levels of internet penetration with almost anyone able to connect to the internet using simple USB dongles or even via mobile phones.
The recent Facebook deal with MTN Uganda made Facebook by far the most popular website in the country and a place where most young and working class individuals spend a lot of time. The hope is that these new opportunities will spur more individual investments in the internet sector. A number of the local newspapers operate newspapers online. These newspapers, particularly those of Monitor and New Vision, are among the most popular Ugandan websites.
As of 2014, the Uganda Communication Commission(UCC) puts Mobile Internet subscription at 4,196,133 compared to 106,900 Fixed Internet subscription. Clearly Mobile Internet supersedes Fixed-line internet.
Despite the increased level of media freedom in Uganda over the last decade, there are still calls for more action from government by journalists and media houses to let the media express themselves freely. The recent cases of when CBS radio was shut down by government and also when NTV was shut down by the government on grounds of dissent are prime examples of government pressure on media.
- Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist, founder and owner of The Independent, a current affairs news magazine.
- List of newspapers in Uganda
- New Vision Group, a multimedia conglomerate in Uganda.
- Walk To Work: "Journalists Slap A Ban On Government Activities Over Attacks",Uganda Radio Network, May 13, 2011, accessed August 13, 2011
- http://www.monitor.co.ug/Business/Technology/Uganda-approves-five-firms-to-deal-in-free-to-air-decoders/-/688612/2204138/-/rpe3jez/-/index.html Uganda approves five firms to deal in free-to-air decoders
- http://www.dignited.com/10440/uganda-digital-tv-migration-beginners-guide-switching-analog-digital-tv/ Uganda Digital TV Migration: A beginner’s guide to switching from Analog to Digital TV
- http://www.dignited.com/152/how-the-mobile-phone-changed-the-way-we-listen-to-radio-in-africa/ How the Mobile Phone changed the way we listen to Radio in Africa
- http://www.dignited.com/9187/radio-meets-web-listen-radio-online-top-5-places/ Listen to Ugandan Radio online from these top 5 places
- Business News: "EASSy cable to be online by 2010",The New Vision, October 9, 2008, accessed August 13, 2011
- http://www.dignited.com/12223/paul-bagyenda-predicted-future-internet-uganda-5-years-ago-state-today-isnt-surprising/ Paul Bagyenda predicted the future of internet in Uganda 5 years ago
- Media freedom: "Narrow Escape",Red Pepper, May 27, 2011, accessed August 13, 2011
- ICT Africa: "NTV Uganda Shut Down a Second Time",Balancing Act Africa, October 13, 2006, accessed August 13, 2011