Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC TV), which is by law mandated to give equitable time to all presidential candidates, has continued to pay disproportionate attention to President Yoweri Museveni.
This is one of the findings of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) December report on media coverage of Uganda’s 2016 general election released today. The report is part of a project to monitor media coverage of the election that started in July. It analyses media reporting on the presidential and parliamentary elections with a view to identifying good practices or pointing out gaps so that they are addressed in good time.
Data gathered by ACME indicates that the percentage of airtime that public broadcaster UBC TV spent on the incumbent increased to 78.9% in December from 43.9% in November. In other words, the situation worsened.
Senior editors at UBC TV acknowledge that their coverage is tilted towards the incumbent candidate and blame it on lack of resources, saying only a quarter of their budget for the coverage of all presidential candidates was funded. They argue that unlike other candidates, incumbent Museveni still enjoys the services of the Presidential Press Unit, which supplies many of the president’s campaign-related stories.
“While we understand UBC’s budgetary constraints, we do not think this entirely explains the tilted election coverage that we have seen thus far,” said Dr Peter G. Mwesige, ACME’s executive director. “I doubt that UBC TV would carry more stories from Mr Museveni’s key opponents — Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Amama Mbabazi — if the two candidates sent them recordings the same way the Presidential Press Unit does.”
He said UBC should do more to respect the law and fulfil its mandate of serving all Ugandans. He urged the Electoral Commission and the Uganda Communications Commission to show more interest in this issue.
The December findings also show that the State broadcaster had the highest percentage of male sources (97.6%) among TV stations and newspapers monitored in December.
But, generally, all media houses across the different platforms use far more male than female sources, with a minimal increment in the use of the latter registered in December.
Single-sourced stories also remained dominant in December. “This denies voters the opportunity to hear diverse perspectives that multiple sourcing tends to generate,” said Dr Mwesige.
Although candidates and politicians continued to be the go-to sources in December, ordinary people —the voters—were a major source category, especially in newspapers.
The December findings also show that media houses across all platforms by and large maintained the poor practice of not questioning claims or promises by candidates. Television did particularly poorly, followed by radio. Newspapers performed better, but still fell short of what is desirable.
As in November, President Museveni was provided more front page coverage by newspapers in December. The incumbent received 39.6% of the front page coverage compared to 36.1% for Mr Mbabazi and 20.8% for Dr Besigye.
Mr Museveni also received more newspaper coverage in general and had more time allocated to him on radio and television. He received 44.2% of newspaper coverage followed by Mr Mbabazi (28%) and Dr Besigye (19.8%). On television, Mr Museveni took 53% of the time against Dr Besigye’s 20.2% and Mr Mbabazi’s 18.9%. On radio, the incumbent had 42% compared to Mr Mbabazi’s 26.6% and Dr Besigye’s 22.8%.
ACME’s media monitoring project is funded by the Democratic Governance Facility under the Citizens’ Election Observers Network Uganda (CEON-U), the local observation initiative which comprises 18 civil society organisations led by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
For further information, please contact Mr Mohles Kalule Segululigamba, ACME’s project manager, monitoring media coverage of 2016 elections, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0776995229
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