Private media boycott airing Museveni’s census message for free

Private media boycott airing Museveni’s Census message for free
President Yoweri Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Uganda’s privately owned television and radio stations have taken a stand against broadcasting a presidential message promoting the national census due to financial concerns.

Despite the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), which has ties to the state, instructing all broadcasters to give the census “maximum publicity” without charge, these stations have refused.

President Yoweri Museveni had prepared a video message aimed at enlightening Ugandans on the significance of participating in the census. However, the broadcasters’ association rejected the directive, citing insufficient government funding as the reason for their non-compliance.

In response to the ongoing census, the government announced Friday 10, May 2024 as a public holiday to encourage citizens to actively engage in the National Housing and Population Census. Conducted over a period of ten days by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the census aims to collect crucial social and demographic data crucial for effective government planning.

President Museveni’s message, emphasizing cooperation with data collectors and the provision of accurate information, has been disseminated via social media platforms.

In an effort to ensure the success of the census, the UCC has mandated all local broadcasters to air the presidential message throughout the duration of the exercise.

Broadcasters were reminded of their responsibility, as outlined in official guidelines, to allocate free airtime for national events by the government.

In reaction, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), representing the industry, clarified that while private broadcasters typically offer free coverage during national emergencies, they expect the government to provide funding for pre-planned events such as the census.

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Innocent Nahabwe, the chairman of NAB, emphasized that media outlets function as commercial entities, fulfilling obligations like paying licensing fees and taxes to the government, alongside covering expenses such as staff salaries. He stated that complying with directives like broadcasting the presidential message without adequate funding could establish a concerning precedent.

“It is based on these considerations that we have regrettably declined to comply with the directive issued by the UCC and will advise our members accordingly,” Mr Nahabwe said.

Uganda is preparing for its sixth national census, marking the first utilization of digital systems, as reported by local media outlets.

The previous census conducted in 2014 estimated Uganda’s population at 36 million. However, current estimates indicate that the population has grown to approximately 45 million since then.