Uganda: Lira's Customised TV Station


There is a plausible explanation as to why free-to-air broadcasting is mostly a Kampala affair, especially for the private TV stations. Uganda's capital is also its commercial hub hence the guarantee of recouping the monies investing in TV may gobble. That may explain why the formerly Jinja-based NBS TV has relocated to Kampala. I am told its programming comprises enthralling Bollywood movies from the Mahatma Ghandi era.

Other regions have mostly had to wait on the benevolence of TV station proprietors after research showed rolling out to other towns was economically viable. Not so for Lira town which can boast of having its own TV station, NTV (Northern TV). NTV (broadcasting on UHF 49) is a community television station with programming tailored to help Lira get back onto its feet after the Northern Uganda insurgency.

The studios may not amount to much in terms of hi-tech gadgetry but the programming comprises relevant content especially for the region's socio-political setting. It comprises a market report, a show on family sanitation, vox populi on a pertinent issue, focus on small business and gender issues. This is interspersed with a varied menu of music, children's programming and news that includes a primetime newscast in Luo.

The station prides itself in setting the news agenda when it comes to the Northern region. Its close proximity to the Juba peace talks complete with resident journalists means NTV does not have to depend on armchair reports culled from international newswire services. The station has correspondents in key regional towns like Arua, Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Apac, Owam and Amolatar who also feed its sister radio station Radio Lira.

Christian broadcaster TOP TV has been chest thumping lately about its improved signal. It still remains a channel hopping experience for me, one where a viewer only settles for a while to see if there is anything interesting to watch. It should not surprise whoever runs that station that TOP TV's newspaper schedules get nothing more than a passing glance. Speaking of Christian broadcasters, I wonder if LTV will make its own audit of the local televangelists that form the bulk of its programming. I would be curious to know if those "falls" are not induced using electric shocks.

The Pentecostal movement is also reeling from another scandal, that of a sodomising Pastor which provided the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in a recent edition of Focal Point [WBS TV, Sundays 7p.m.]. Bart Kakooza had mostly concealed his interviewee's face and had also bleeped out the errant pastor's name every time it was mentioned. An NTV news anchor/ reporter seems to have blown the pastor's cover in last week's Sunday Monitor lead story whose information was so similar to Kakooza's show.

Shouldn't Simon Kasyate have done a TV feature or documentary to put him in the running for another shot at the CNN/Multichoice African journalist of the year award?

My heart goes out to UBC TV's Bbale Francis who has to work in an environment of ineptitude that waters down his standing as a world-class anchor. Saturday night's newscast was a near disaster though not comparable to that tale about his studio encounter with a snake. Bbale grappled with a mix-up in the news footage and when the cameras came back to him, he was caught reaching for and shuffling the news script he had dropped.

The Japanese government recently handed the public broadcaster a financial shot in the arm worth $10m. Some of that money had better be spent on acquiring a teleprompter, which should be standard equipment for any modern day television station of note.

(The Monitor (Kampala), 15 July 2007)