Economists have voiced their apprehensions following a recent directive issued by President Yoweri Museveni, directing that all government advertising be exclusively channeled through state media, specifically the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).
While the directive aims to address the underfunding issues faced by UBC, economists argue that it is not in line with the government’s liberalization policy and raises concerns about the potential impact on the media industry.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, President Museveni instructed that all government advertising should be conducted solely through state media, particularly the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).
The directive further stated that any accounting officer deviating from this instruction would face dismissal.
The decision was prompted by a letter from UBC’s Managing Director, Winston Agaba, highlighting underfunding, alleged denial of government advertising, and the mounting debt burden faced by UBC.
Francis Muhire, an economist from Makerere University Business School, highlighted the discrepancy between the directive and the government’s liberalization policy stating that the government had initially embraced liberalization as a strategy to foster efficient solutions, relying on private enterprises that require less supervision and operate more effectively.
According to President Museveni, the government had previously monopolized certain services, a practice inherited from colonial times. However, the decision was later reversed, and various sectors, including media and hospitality, were liberalized to encourage competition and innovation.
Despite the government’s previous efforts to centralize media buying under the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in 2020, concerns were raised about the potential negative impact on private media outlets.
Muhire warned that the directive could have detrimental effects on employment within the media industry, with potential consequences for the overall economy.
The true implications of the directive are still uncertain, as it remains unclear whether the focus will solely be on government advertising through UBC and New Vision or if UBC’s debt will also be addressed.
While the directive aims to alleviate UBC’s underfunding challenges, economists caution that it may inadvertently undermine private media outlets and contradict the government’s liberalization efforts.
The media industry and stakeholders are tasked with the mandate of monitoring developments to gauge the long-term effects of the directive, seeking to strike a balance between addressing UBC’s financial issues and maintaining a thriving and diverse media landscape in Uganda.