One of the objectives of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 is to expand the existing variety of communication services available in Uganda to include modern and innovative communication services. The Uganda Communications Act gives the Commission powers to classify communications services and licenses and allows the Minister to develop regulations or standards for the regulation of community broadcasting.
Community broadcasting is defined as broadcasting, which is for, by and about the community, whose ownership and management is representative of the community, which pursues a social development agenda, and which is non-profit.
Community broadcasting services are complimentary to the commercial and public broadcasters, and are a crucial part of a healthy, pluralistic media sector. Community broadcasting usually serves rural or grassroots groups that are often excluded from wider social, political and economic trends and benefits in society.
Community broadcasting has emerged to help fill this major communications gap, and to enable these groups to access basic information that can help them to improve their situations, and to articulate their concerns and attract the attention they need to address them. Community broadcasters have in many cases become a vital means by which the voiceless can exercise their right to express themselves freely and to access the information they need to bring about positive change.
2. MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF COMMUNITY BROADCASTERS
Community broadcasters are generally characterized by three principles:
They are managed by various types of non-profit social organizations. Their fundamental characteristic is the participation of the community, in ownership as well as programming, management, operation, financing and evaluation. They are independent and non-governmental media that do not depend on or are part of political parties or private firms.
Community broadcasting exists to satisfy the communication needs of their communities’ members and to enable them to exercise their rights of access to information and freedom of expression. The main objectives of community broadcasting include:
The Framework sets out the guiding principles and policies to be followed by community broadcasting stations. The framework provides the requirements and conditions under which community broadcasting will operate. These include license application requirements, governance, management requirements and principles to ensure community participation.
4.1 Principles for guiding community broadcasting
Community broadcasting services are guided by the following principles:
An application shall be made in writing to the Uganda Communications Commission. The applicant must demonstrate plans for community development and empowerment with respect to the community located within the coverage area it would like to render community broadcasting services. The application will be accompanied by the following documents: –
License fees: Fees for community broadcasting are provided for in the Uganda Communications (Fees and Fines) Regulations. Application fees are shillings 4,368,000/= for a community radio station, and annual fees of shillings 1,400,000/=.
4.3 GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT
The founding documents of an applicant must reflect the defined roles of management and the board members. The composition of the Board may exclude immediate family members such as: parents; siblings; children connected by birth or adoption; spouses through marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation; grandparents; great-grandparents; grandchildren; great-grandchildren; aunts; uncles; siblings-in-law; half-siblings; cousins; adopted children.
The Board represents the community and is there to ensure, among others, that the interests of the community are served. Board members are not employees of the radio station. The Board is not supposed to control daily administrative functions of the station as this is the responsibility of the Station Manager. The Board is also responsible for the employment of the station manager, to assist with the formulation and updating of the legal/ founding documents, policy documents and the overall oversight of the licensee’s operations.
The role of the Board includes but not limited to: –
Community broadcasting licensees must broadcast programming that supports and promotes sustainable development, participatory democracy and human rights as well as the educational objectives, information needs, language, culture and entertainment interests of different groups such as women, youth, civic and sport interest groups. The majority of programmes broadcast by a community broadcasting service, news bulletins and current affairs shows in particular, are supposed to be produced and sourced locally.
Community broadcasting applicants/ licensees shall be required to submit their proposed programming format with majority of programmes produced and sourced locally.
Programme syndication/ networking and programme sharing between broadcasting licensees shall not exceed 20% of the community licensee’s programming.
The Commission must ensure that programming reflects community needs and interests, which must include among others cultural, religious, language and geographic needs and must:
Community broadcasting Licensees will be required to have policies dealing with programming matters that include, amongst others:
Whilst taking advantage of other platforms such as online broadcasting and social media, the programming content should be relevant to the community being served within the licence area. The other platforms should be a means to share the local experience or stories but not to dilute the localness of the community broadcaster.
4.5 MANAGEMENT CONTRACTS
Community broadcasting licensees shall be required to submit Management contracts to the Commission for approval. Management contracts may be a useful arrangement under which operational control of a licensee is vested by contract in a separate entity/ company that performs the necessary managerial/ administrative functions in return for a fee or payment. The main purpose of management agreement is to moderate lack of skill and knowledge of operation within a licensee. The agreement should clearly state the method of reimbursement and the duration of the agreement. The licensee must always retain editorial and programming control and independence.
The Commission will consider the following conditions for approval of a management contract:
4.5 COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
Community participation means availing mechanisms that ensure the participation by members of the community served, in the running of the operations, policy making, and programming of the licensee, and representation of the different sectors of the community in influencing the direction the licensee should take. This in turn results in the equitable representation of the linguistic, cultural and religious diversity within the geographical boundaries of the area.
Please note that the community broadcasting operating model challenges the traditional division between broadcasters on one side and listeners on the other side. In community sound broadcasting the listener becomes the broadcaster. Listeners get access to the airwaves.
Affording community members who are experts in various fields such as community health, education, culture, language, customs, environment, science, etc, an opportunity to host programmes in their respective fields, is one of the means of ensuring community access to the airwaves.
Community broadcasting licensees are solely meant for the benefit of the community not the board, individuals and/or directors of the entity/ company that holds the licence. Therefore, a non-profit company that holds a licence must account or report back to the community it serves as a community broadcaster. The AGMs are the best way to report and account to communities. This also brings the licensee close to the people it serves.
The Commission shall therefore ensure that:
4.6 RECORD KEEPING
The Community broadcaster shall keep the following documents:
4.7 TECHNICAL STANDARDS AND SPECIFICATIONS
A licensee must adhere to the regulations relating to technical standards and specifications, including regulations speaking to:
The Community broadcaster will comply with all the laws, regulations and standards that are issued by the Commission from time to time.
All community broadcasting licensees will be required to comply with the obligations set out in the Act, license conditions, and codes of practice.
Community broadcasting services are usually funded by donations, pledges, grants, sponsorships or advertising or membership fees, or by any combination of the aforementioned. The Commission has placed caps on the number of minutes per hour for advertising by community broadcasting licensees. However, most radio stations have the following problems:
It is recommended that the revenue generated from advertisement and announcements shall be utilized only for the operational expenses and capital expenditure. After meeting the full financial needs of the station, surplus may be
ploughed into the primary activity of the organization, i.e. for education in case
of educational institutions and for furthering the primary objectives for which
the NGO concerned was established.
Transmission of sponsored programmes shall not be permitted except programmes sponsored by the government and other organizations to broadcast in public interest. In addition, limited advertising and announcements relating to local events, local businesses and services, employment opportunities shall be allowed. The maximum duration of such limited advertising will be restricted to five minutes per hour of broadcast.
Community broadcasting service licenses may:
4.11 ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
The following types of organizations are eligible to apply for Community
The following shall not be eligible to apply for a community license:
4.12 RESTRICTION ON HOLDER OF COMMUNITY BROADCASTING LICENSE
A person licensed to hold a community broadcasting license shall not: –