Virtual campaigns in Uganda drive stations to hike radio talk show charges

Uganda radio stations struggling to generate revenue
The absence of advertisers, and sponsors for programmes and talk shows hosted by the radio stations means that they can no longer make enough money to sustain their wage bill and other running costs.

Hoima, Uganda | URN | Radio stations in parts of Bunyoro have hiked charges for persons intending to use the media platform to contest for the different political positions.  The hike came after the Electoral Commission (EC) announced a ban on open-air campaigns, in the wake of coronavirus disease.  

Instead, the commission advised political aspirants to utilize virtual platforms to reach their constituents. Many of the politicians are now using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp while others are considering radio and television talk-shows as avenues for interacting with the voters.

Radio Stations are now charging between 500,000 and 800,000 Shillings to host the political aspirants for an hour. Initially, politicians were hosted at no cost to discuss national issues or a sum of 300,000 Shillings if they needed a special programme dedicated to them.  

Spice FM, one of the stations in Hoima town is now charging 600,000 Shillings for a one-hour political talk show. The same amount is charged at Emambya Radio in Kakumiro district, while Liberty FM is charging 500,000 Shillings.  

But the politicians are protesting the charges and are seeking government intervention to stop the radio proprietors from exploiting them. John Kitalibara who is contesting for the Hoima Municipality parliamentary seat says that the charges are a disadvantage to many, especially new entrants who might not have a solid financial background.  

He wants Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Electoral Commission (EC) to prevail over the media houses and regulate the charges and ensure that strong candidates are not outclassed by opponents with the financial muscle to spend on a better virtual campaign.     

Aled Akungizibwe who is contesting for the Buruli County Parliamentary seat in Masindi district says most of the Radio Stations are owned by their opponents who are denying them access to the airwaves.  

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She too says the digital campaigns are favouring the incumbent MPs who she says already have the money and all the resources to campaign on Radio stations at the expense of the new entrants who are financially constrained.   

Samuel Tumusiime, who is also Contesting for the Hoima Municipality parliamentary seat says the move could deny competent people with vibrant and diverse knowledge an opportunity to be heard just because their views will not reach the people at the grass-root levels.     

The Electoral Commission (EC) set October 12 and 13, 2020 as nomination dates for those seeking seats in Parliament.