ABS Television’s broadcasting licence suspended for ‘offensive’ programming

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has suspended the broadcasting licence of faith-based television station, ABS TV, for its “offensive programmes”.

A letter to the station’s management from the UCC Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabaazi, sent on 5 September 2017 reads in part: “In spite of the several warnings and attempts to give the management of ABS Television time to review its programmes and avoid further broadcasting of offensive programmes, ABS Television has continued to broadcast programmes that are contrary to the minimum broadcasting standards.”

The Commission directs the TV station to “immediately stop broadcasting on all forums”.

ABS TV is the property of Auger Revival Ministries, which is owned Mr Augustine Yiga, the senior pastor of Revival Christian Church. On the station’s website it promises “highly inspirational programmes” and “extensive review of content aired”.  According to UCC, the television station has not lived up to this ideal.

In November 2015, shortly after ABS TV was launched, it received a notice from UCC ordering the suspension of one of its popular programmes, Kalondozi. The programme producers, who modelled their show after the long-running American hidden camera reality series Cheaters, claimed that by exposing people in adulterous relationships they were protecting families and promoting  moral living. However the programme went a step farther, broadcasting tape of sexual encounters of some of the alleged offenders.

A year later, ABC TV was in trouble with the Uganda Communications Commission again. Not only was it ordered to halt the broadcast of Kalondozi, but also two other programmes that fell short of the minimum broadcasting standards.

Lately, both Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with complaints about a fairly new programme nicknamed ‘Naked News’. The show, which viewers complain has a pornographic sensibility, introduces female news anchors by suggestively zooming on and panning up their bodies as they pose and smile seductively at the cameras. The anchors, who enter the set wearing layers of clothing, then take each item off, bit by bit, until they get to the last dress underneath. The programme enraged many viewers who said the suggestion of a striptease broadcast before the 10:00 p.m. watershed was inappropriate.

Mr Kin Kariisa, chair of the National Association of Broadcaster of which ABS TV is a member, said that while the Association advocates for the rights of its members, the station’s  programming was “disgusting and demonizing the industry”.

“I am yet to understand their programming policy. I thought they were a faith-based television station that does community broadcasting,” Kariisa told ACME.

Kariisa said it is important that all broadcasters are ethical in their practice and programming.

UCC has imposed a USHS 25m fine on ABS TV for repeated breach of the broadcasting standards. It has also given the station 60 days during which they have to present “measures instituted to ensure that all its programs have been modified to comply with the law”. If the station fails to do so, its license will be revoked.

Under the Uganda Communications Act 2013, TV and radio stations are prohibited from broadcasting material that is contrary to public morality and promotes the violence or ethnic prejudice.

In May this year, the Commission suspended Radio Hoima’s licence, accusing it of airing content that promoted violence and ethnic prejudice. It also threatened to suspend NBS TV for comments made by former presidential adviser Tamale Mirundi that were deemed contrary to public morality.

UCC's letter to ABS TV
UCC’s letter to ABS TV
Grace Natabaalo

Grace Natabaalo is a programme assistant at the African Centre for Media Excellence.

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