An enthusiastic journalist posed the following questions and other stakeholders could benefit from the same responses.
Qn. What circumstances would lead to closing/suspending a radio/TV station or a program?
Ans. Radio and TV can be closed or a program suspended if there is a serious breach of broadcasting standards and licensing terms and conditions. Section 31 and paragraphs (a) (ii) and (iv) of the Fourth Schedule of the Uganda Communications Act of 2013, prohibit broadcasters from broadcasting any program or content that directly or indirectly promotes hatred or a culture of violence and likely to incite and/or glorify violent behaviours.
Licensed Radio and TV providers and or programs are required to adhere to the various frameworks that govern their operations. These include; Laws of Uganda, Regulations, Standards, Licensing terms and conditions and codes of practice.
The Commission is therefore empowered by law to suspend a license for breach of license terms and conditions in accordance with Section 41 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 and other laws of Uganda.
Qn. That some radio owners, program managers, feel pressurised to broadcast stories favourable to the government, why?
Ans. Broadcasters are duty bound to protect the public and national interest in accordance with the programming standards. Any broadcasting programme should not:
- promote values and attitudes which are contrary to the national interest;
- present information or events in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public;
- contain propagandist and ideological messages on behalf of any, group, organisation or foreign country;
- provide extremist or anarchic messages, including the incitement of violence for political ends or other purposes; or
- Sensationalise the treatment of any issue whether local, nationalistic or foreign in nature.
Therefore, as a regulator of the communications sector, the Commission emphasises that broadcasters must ensure that their programs are fair, balanced especially when dealing with issues of public importance. This is in line with the Press and Journalist Act. This does not in any way amount to pressurising by the government for favourable stories.
That said, in line with the standards, broadcasters must ensure that where a broadcast relates to national security, the contents of the transmission are verified before broadcasting. When considering News, Current Affairs and other factual programmes, broadcasters are expected to be Fair, Objective and Impartial. For example;
- All news broadcast must be reported and presented objectively and impartially and without any expression of the broadcaster’s views,
- Current affairs, including matters and matters that may be of public controversy or the subject of ongoing public debate, should be treated in all fairness to all interests concerned and the broadcast issue should be presented objectively and impartially and without any expression of the broadcaster’s views,
- As a result, it is expected that a right of reply or an opportunity to respond is granted to the Government or its agencies, to correct mistakes, wrongful reporting or misrepresentations. Just like for private individuals and groups, an opportunity to respond should be considered on the merits of each case.
Under the above circumstances, the Commission may direct a broadcaster to allow an aggrieved party to respond over an appropriate medium. This does not amount to pressurising for positive stories.
Qn. Is it the role of the media to protect the country’s image? Should media personnel hold back on a story that may tarnish the image of the country even when the story is factual?
Ans. Professional media practitioners are supposed to be Ethical, Fair, Objective and Impartial. This means weighing the good and bad side of any action or a news story. If a
the editor’s judgement, the story will bring more harm to the nation than the good, then it would be unethical to publish it.
Several sectors thrive on the positive image of the Country like tourism, sports, the financial industry and others. It is therefore essential that when presenting stories, journalist consider the bigger picture (the Country at large) in assessing the impact of their stories.
That said, anyone would love to see stories covering them to be published. This is even so to the government. Media practitioners are understandably supposed to be impartial and balanced. However, if protecting Uganda’s image is a good thing then all citizens must embrace it, and the media should even carry more responsibility because their actions have a global or international reach.
Uganda Communications Commission; UCC House; Plot 42-44 Spring Road, Bugolobi; P. O. Box 7376, Kampala; Phone: +256-41-4339000, +256-31-2339000; Toll-Free: 0800 222 777; Email: email@example.com, Website: http://www.ucc.co.ug