By Spy Uganda
“It’s very evident that some social media pundits have been paid to simply tarnish our image that we’ve built for decades,” that’s the welcoming statement our reporter got from one of the members of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on the other side of the phone call when called to get clarification on the spiraling allegations surrounding the shs6billion Gov’t gave out to support media houses by buying airtime for covid19 campaign.
For starters, On Sunday, social media was awash with allegations that NAB members wanted to benefit from the said monies alone without wanting to share with the rest of the media houses who are not necessarily NAB members.
However, to put the record straight, NAB’s senior Administrator Natasha Musiimenta, in an exclusive interview with our TheSpy Uganda reporter argued that the twisted facts surrounding the whole issue of Covid19 media money is unfortunate, because it’s a known fact to those who want to do research that it’s NAB that not only proposed to Government the need for a bail out but it (NAB) went ahead and proposed who and how the money should be distributed evenly, covering all media houses in Uganda.
“We’ve documents on record where we’re re-emphasizing our earlier submission that the money be distributed evenly to all registered media houses including Radios,TVs, Online and print newspapers. Infact, our position was and still is that you don’t have to be a NAB member to get access to this money,for as long as you are registered with UCC and other relevant Gov’t bodies. These are documented correspondences, how would we retract that?,” Natasha argued.
Natasha also told this reporter that most media houses have been complaining about not getting contract orders and LPOs from the Saatchi and Saatchi, an Agency recruited by ICT & NG to deal with media buying on behalf of Gov’t, although there was a disagreement of the percentage being deducted as service charge, which is 10%.
“Because of too many complains from members, we even proposed that Saatchi and Saatchi adopts one member of NAB to work with in their office to fast track the process which they didn’t buy up to now, so we wonder where all this is coming from,” she said.
This website has however reliably learnt that a section of bloggers had contacted ICT & NG permanent secretary Vincent Bagiire with a proposal to also be included on the campaign task force by paying their blog pages, a thing that NAB objected and insisted that their shs6b was meant for only legalized media outlets. “When we heard that bloggers also wanted a share of media money, we tactfully presented a full list of all media houses known by UCC and even proposed on the distribution plan, this was to insulate members’ interests. It’s clear many other interests were coming in, but if they couldn’t allow media houses like online who are not registered with UCC to take part, then how would you give a contract to a blogger to do the same? I believe that’s the cracks of the matter,” another member who didn’t want to be mentioned argued.
Infact, TheSpy Uganda has chanced on a follow up letter dated 8th May 2020 where NAB sent a list of media houses that had been left out. Another letter sought clarification on the procedure used to give out different amounts of money to various media houses, while others completely missed out.
Today Monday 12th May NAB Admin.Natasha wrote to NAB members re-affirming earlier position that all members are entitled to Covid19 ads and that those who could still be missing on the list should contact her office.
We re-produce her communication verbatim below which we intercepted:
“RE: UPDATE ON MEDIA EXECUTION PLAN FOR GOVERNMENT COVID-19 MESSAGES
Thank you for being resilient through this season and for keeping the nation informed.
As we all may be aware by now, following the ongoing COVID-19 crisis hitting the Ugandan market, many of our advertisers sought to pull back, either partially or fully the funds they were spending with us, a reality that had us, on 27th March, 2020, write to the Government of Uganda, specifically the Ministry of Finance, requesting them to buy media to ensure Ugandans are adequately kept sensitized.
The Ministry of Finance forwarded a budget of UGX 10B to the Parliament, who, following debate on 7th April, 2020, brought this down to UGX 6B. This was handed over to the Ministry of ICT, who shared with us their need to fund a COVID-19 communication taskforce to the tune of UGX 1B, hence leaving us with UGX 5B to work with.
On 9th April 2020, we appealed for inclusiveness of all, after being informed that only UGX 5B would be available. We also proposed a media plan and asked for a portion of advance payment.
On 23rd April, 2020, the Ministry of ICT put out a list of the media houses that were to disseminate the COVID-19 sensitization messages, leaving out a substantial number of our members.
This prompted us to seek a meeting with the ministry on 28th April, 2020, which we managed to hold on 29th April, 2020. In it, we pointed out omissions of some member media houses during allocations, we asked for clarity on the amounts to be split using the media plan we proposed, and also asked about the criteria (to be) used in allocations. We also took note that agency fees were much higher than we had proposed, and asked for a halt in the distribution until all was cleared out.
In our proposal, the registered 306 radio stations take 50% of this budget, 39 registered TV stations (including UBC) 36%, and the 30 registered online portals 5%. We also had print taking 5%, production of advertising material 4% and 5% as agency and monitoring fees. The breakdown of our approved proposal is as detailed below;
Tier 1 – 40% 39 stations
Tier 2 – 20% 26 stations
Tier 3 – 40% 241 stations
Total – 50% 306 stations
Tier 1 – 70% 5 stations
Tier 2 – 15% 10 stations
Tier 3 – 15% 24 stations
Total – 36% 39 stations
Tier 1 – 70% 17 portals
Tier 2 – 30% 13 portals
Total – 5% 30 portals
Tier 1 – 80% 3 papers
Tier 2 – 20% 4 papers
Total – 5% 7 papers
Radio & TV 1
Total 4% 1
AGENCY & MONITORING FEES
Radio – 2.5% 306 stations
Television – 2.5% 39 stations
Total – 5% 345 stations
On 5th May, 2020, and again on 8th May, 2020, we wrote to the Ministry of ICT yet again, this time inquiring on why multiple media houses had either been missed out, or allocated monies which were neither part of our proposed plan, or had received a booking window which did not tally with what we had discussed with the ministry team. We also asked for a clear payment plan. We are yet to receive a reply from the ministry regarding these queries.
Given the disparity in the overall business allocated, with different quarters citing different figures, we shall continue to push for clarity as well as a resolution of these matters, because we believe strongly in the role we are playing.
As we await further engagement with Government on this and related matters, we found it prudent to give a collective update, chronologically, given that we have been receiving multiple inquiries from individual media houses about this subject.
We maintain our resolve to be all-inclusive to the extent guided by Government, and even more, transparent to our members. Therefore, those who may not have yet been reached out to by QG Saacthi & Saatchi for any booking, or those with inquiries, please reach me via WhatsApp using the contact indicated below. I shall aggregate the information for further processing.
National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
+256 705 713 993”