Exorbitant taxes, non-government payment for media services delivered and repressive regulatory framework have been cited as the key inhabitors to the growth of the media industry.
The remarks were made during the Annual General meeting (AGM) of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) for the year 2022 that took place in Kampala on Thursday. The leadership of NAB also gave out the certificates of membership to the broadcasters.
The association raised the issue of the outstanding amounts owed to the media, saying that the government still has a debt of shillings 13 billion to clear with the media industry.
The chairman of NAB, Kin Kariisa said there is a need to educate the government from the head of state about the importance of paying media in time.
He proposed that it is high time for the association to introduce aging debts/attracting interest on government business.
He explained that this is because the government is their biggest client and beneficiary but taking more than 90 days, sometimes three years or more to pay does not leave the outstanding amount to have the same value in the economy.
“1 billion in 2019 is not the same as in 2022, hence the need to introduce the interests and surcharges when they fail to pay within an agreed time period. We shall engage our commercial arm on this proposal,“ he said.
On amendment of the media laws by the government, the association in exercising their mandate, managed to meet the Ministry of Finance & ICT where it requested for in-depth consultation of the stakeholders and industry players before the laws are passed.
Unfortunately, it noted that the amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was passed regardless of its reservations and opinions hence its current vagueness and the threat it might be to the rights and freedoms of expression and the press.
The association is now asking the government to have numerous meetings with the media stakeholders, especially NAB to gather tried, tested and experienced opinions from the industry players because these laws will be affecting them more than any other person.
On proposal for a media campaign against the spread of ebola virus, the association in October,2022 wrote to the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Health and other relevant ministries asking them to set aside a budget through the Ministry of ICT.
It said the feedback was positive but no further action was taken.
On the issues regarding UCC and licenses, Kariisa said most radios have paid UCC their dues, but the commission delays to give these outlets their licenses, noting that there is a problem of un-coordinated billing from the commission.
“No station in Western Uganda has a valid license from UCC, we need to meet UCC ASAP since it looks like there is no sense of direction. No station from the faith based has been licensed, “he said.
He said there is need to work with UCC to fast track licensing of the radios that have fulfilled most of the requirements because some standards are not practical, calling upon the commission to relax some of these standards like biometric doors among others in some of the up-country stations.
“URA and the Ministry of Finance are squeezing the radios for money. These are a risk to some of these stations which have had to shut down because of URA. Communicate to URA to stop stifling the industry, “he said, adding that the media council process is taking too long in registering the editors, we shall engage them.
Kariisa said they wrote and sent out letters to their sister associations including Editors Guild among others asking them to be part of the executive for proper execution of plans and strengthen the media industry. NAB has representation from these associations.
On April 14 2022, NAB executives were invited to Parliament by the chairman Parliamentary ICT committee where they presented a number of challenges affecting the industry.
Kariisa said they are requesting that the Parliamentary ICT Committee should work with the Ministry of ICT to enact a regulation that clarifies on the payment and the application of the 2% levy to telecoms as opposed to broadcasters and redefining the operators to whom the 2% levy was intended to apply to.
“We request for the establishment of the UCC Tribunal as provided for by the UCC Act 2013, and as was promised by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance on various occasions, the latest being in September 2021,” Kariisa said.
NAB also proposed that every government program should have a 2-5% budget component in every financial year for sensitization and awareness.