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Review committee wants UBC overhauled

The Uganda Broadcasting Corporation review committee yesterday submitted a damning report showing how the state-owned television and radio ‘has been mismanaged, chronically- underfunded, and not treated like a public institution of strategic value.’

At the handover of the report to Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for ICT and national guidance, the secretary to the committee, Andrew Kibaya, said they had found a glaring lack of clarity within government or the corporation itself on the role and place of UBC.

“Many continue to look at it at best as a state or government broadcaster and at worst as a ruling party mouthpiece,” lawyer Kibaya said. “The character of the public broadcaster envisaged in the Broadcasting Policy of 2006 is not fully embraced by the legislation and operations of UBC.”

The UBC review committee was appointed by Tumwebaze in August 2016 to study “the current situation of UBC with a view to unearthing the root cause of its shortcomings and reviewing the structure, products and processes to come up with recommendations that will enable UBC to realise its maximum potential.”

This followed a series of management and financial problems that crippled activities at UBC, including failure to pay staff salaries and benefits. The review was chaired by the executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence, Dr Peter Mwesige. Its three-month inquiry gathered and analysed views and evidence from the government, UBC, regulators, industry, political parties, civil society, and the general public.

Dr Peter Mwesige hands over the report to ICT minister Frank Tumwebaze

According to Kibaya, the report highlights the likely causes of UBC’s current challenges, identifies the manifestations of the problems the corporation is faced with, and proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations on how to improve the public broadcaster.

The committee found that the UBC board and management have flouted best practices in corporate governance, by operating without a strategic plan, failing to implement approved policies, and the board involving itself in the day-to-day management of UBC.

In addition, the committee found that UBC lacks a clear editorial policy to inform its decision-making and content strategy, while ensuring the independence of its newsrooms, with little attention being paid to programming and content.

The committee also found that UBC’s radio broadcast infrastructure is completely run down and obsolete, with some UBC stations broadcasting from Kampala without being received in parts of the country.

Kibaya said although they have made several recommendations in their report, they believe the most important and most urgent broad reforms required at UBC include a change management process to help the board, management and staff to appreciate better and together embrace the true mandate of a public broadcaster.

Other key recommendations include amendment of the UBC Act to turn UBC into a true public broadcaster that is independent, serves the public interest, and is accountable to the public; the establishment of a predictable and adequate public financing mechanism to support UBC’s long-term planning; and the restructuring of the corporation.

Kibaya told the minister that the recommendations  “should be looked at holistically” since “it will be counter-productive to pour public money into UBC without addressing the legal, technical, governance, management and human resource, as well as programming challenges” that the review committee has identified.

“Some of those challenges require money, of course, but others revolve around fostering the right mind-set. Restructuring and change management are critical,” he said, further recommending a more inclusive decision-making process on the future of UBC that ropes in Cabinet, Parliament, political parties, civil society and the general public.

Tumwebaze welcomed the report and said the government is committed to revamping UBC, including guaranteeing the editorial independence at a corporation hitherto seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling NRM party.  But he warned that independence should not translate into immunity from supervision.

“We shall immediately do a government White Paper from the report,” he said. “This report will be my guide as we start our revamp of UBC.”

hobenon@observer.ug

Comments

0 #1 kabayekka 2016-12-22 23:25
Most citizens who experienced the colonial TV and radio broadcasts know very well what this report says.
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