Broadcasters under their umbrella body have informed the government that they will not provide free airtime for their Covid talk shows, as requested.
The government had written to broadcasters, through the Uganda Communications Commission, directing them to allocate free airtime to Resident City Commissioners, Resident District Commissioners, and District Health Officers every Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Sundays between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to mobilise the population to go for Covid vaccination, as the president had indicated.
“The commission hereby brings the above presidential directive to your attention and directs you to cooperate and facilitate the implementation of the above-mentioned directive on your airwaves,” the UCC said in a directive to all broadcasters issued on December 23.
However, in a December 27 response, the broadcasters stated that they will not follow the government’s directive.
“While we recognise the spirit behind the appearances given the need to sensitise and mobilise the masses towards Covid-19 vaccination, we would like to humbly notify you that none of our members has received a corresponding commercial booking and these appearances on radio and TV stations shall not be provided for free,” the NAB chairman, Kin Kariisa, said in a letter dated December 27.
According to the broadcasters, whereas they wrote to government, through the Office of the Prime Minister for a deliberate campaign on mass vaccination through media campaigns, they didn’t receive any response in regards the matter.
NAB adds that as any other sector, the broadcasters too have been greatly affected by the pandemic which has hit them financially yet they have to pay taxes, licence fees, employees’ salaries and operational costs among others adding that it is only prudent that government pays for the services it wants from them.
“We however cannot host these numerous talk shows for free. Media services just like fuel for ambulances, tents , vaccines and other government vehicles need to be paid for. We have bills to pay to keep services on air and we don’t receive any government subsidies,”Kariisa said.
According to the NAB chairman, broadcasters will continue to run the presidential Covid addresses for free , with or without notice but the said Covid vaccination mass sensitization programs have to be paid for.
“Considering our efforts thus far towards the fight against Covid and millions of vaccine donation in stores, the least the government can do is is budget for a deliberate sustained media campaign to ensure the jabs are administered to the population before the vaccines expire.”