Assessing the media landscape in Uganda using the Media Development Indicators
There are some 48 publications in circulation in Uganda, according to the official Media Council website, and 8 TV stations regularly on air with many more registered. Most of these stations are urban-based. The Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (radio and TV), government owned and controlled, struggles to operate as a public broadcaster, covering only 3/4 of the country. Community radio is weak and faces serious financial and human resource challenges. There are also barely any operational community newspapers or television stations.
While the growth in the broadcast sector promises diversity, it is unclear how accessible the channels are to the non-privileged and the extent to which the content of these channels is democratic and editorially independent. There are glaring disparities in the quality of personnel and equipment from one media house to another, (with rural and community media being the 'poor relations'), as well as in the quality of education offered in the various degree- and non-degree-awarding institutions across the country. Training institutions continue to be dogged by shortages in human and material resources. Scholars note that although the Ugandan constitution has increasing provisions supporting freedom of expression and access to information, and laws to govern print and electronic media, the overall regulatory environment is not fully conducive and unduly limits the fulfillment of societal roles by the media. In light of the above, an assessment of the levels of pluralism and diversity is required, as it is becoming increasingly clear that a rise in the number of channels will not automatically convert to an increase in diversity and choice for listeners and viewers.
Numerous studies and background papers are available in relation to Uganda’s media landscape, including the Uganda Public Service Broadcasting Survey (Mwesige et al., 2010) and the National Electronic Media Performance Study (Makarere University, 2004). None however are all-encompassing, and generally fall short of identifying operational constraints, addressing forums of democratic discourse (commercial and community media), analyzing inequities in ownership, strengthening editorial independence and enlarging the participation of civil society to enhance media development in Uganda. A full-fledged assessment of Uganda’s media landscape using UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators is expected to elaborate on these gaps and provide the data and information that is critical for informed decision making. The MDIs offer a useful framework for assessing the level and quality of media development and the proposed study will provide holistic, current and accurate country-specific data on the media landscape in Uganda. The immediate objective of this project is therefore to assess five categories of the media environment in Uganda using the context of the MDIs, and secondly to advance debate on media development in Uganda, generate relevant recommendations and identify further support mechanisms.