By Andrew Irumba
A state rests on four pillars for it to armpit several anniversaries; Executive,Judiciary, Legislature and the Fourth Estate-Media.
Thankfully, the head of state, in his latest state of the nation address re-iterated this to the doubting Thomases; “Yes, the media is very powerful! Even now I’m talking to you (Nation) through media.Don’t you see that Linda Nabusaayi is very powerful? They are part of essentials,” the president said.
But now, there is one thing often doesn’t add up when it comes to ‘servicing’ the essential services.
The media is so far one of the greatest allies all states across the world need in the fight against the spread and control of Codiv-19 right now. Do you know why?, because intense and aggressive awareness campaigns, a role played by the media is any country’s first line of attack or vanguard against the pandemic now, with no guaranteed medical cure so far.
The biggest ‘medicine’ for Codiv-19 right now is prevention through mass awareness campaigns. The media is a proven major weapon in creating repetitive messaging and reaches out to millions in a blink of an eye at a particular time.
For the case of Uganda, unfortunately, most media houses are on the verge of shutting down due to over hovering bills such as salaries, license fees, subscription fees to carries like signet for the sake of Tvs, water, power fees among others.
Amidist all these, media houses are still soldiering on by relaying all Codiv-19 and other Government messages free of charge.
To make matters worse, TheSpy Uganda confirmed with several media houses (names withheld) whom Gov’t owes up to shs13 billion from as far back as 2018.
Although, they’re still playing their citizenry role, it’s only prudent that Gov’t supports them to stay afloat just like other essential sectors are being given a hand, even amidst these calamities. Media played a vital role in disseminating information relating to locusts free of charge, mudslides among others. They’ve continued to a vital role during this Codiv-19 pandemic, because they have asocial contract with the citizenry, but a Gov’t hand would help to ensure their existence for the greater good. It is time for government to share the burden of relaying official messages with the media houses.
To ensure this, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Just Suggested Four Key Proposals As Thus:
1. Pay outstanding debts. Media houses are among the major creditors of the government. Government should pay domestic arrears owing to media houses immediately to enable them cope with the rising costs of running their businesses at a minimum of profit. The government owes media houses up to Shillings 13 billion accruing from as far back as 2018.
2. URA needs to waive taxes on media houses. Each media house can submit monitoring logs to prove the value each media house runs during the lockdown period. URA should also Zero rate VAT for media houses till 1st July 2020
3. UCC should defer, reduce or waive License fees. The same should apply to UBC carriage fees.
There are 306 radio stations and 39 TV stations in Uganda.
Radio stations pay an average of Shs17, 500,000 annual license fees and $1,300 monthly mast rental fees to UBC. TV stations pay an average of 92m to UCC for the annual license fees and 9.45m to Signet for the monthly hosting fees.
4. Government should pay cash for ads that media houses are running during the coronavirus. The government should buy space, airtime and reach-out on print, broadcast and online media respectively, to a tune of Shs15billion per month for the next 3 months.
This can be managed jointly by the media owners association, with proper accountability backed by invoices and media schedules. The budget of Shs15 billion per month is guided by the space and airtime the media houses have been offering since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The idea of billboards is ludicrous because most people are confined at home. Sharing information through markets can be done by relaying information through loudspeakers mounted on trucks.
Ealier this week, Gov’t tabled an estimated shs538 billion supplementary budget request before parliament for approval specifically to handle the aftermath of Codiv-19.