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Historical Development Of Radio And Recent Radios Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5432 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Since mid 1990s, with the liberalization of airwaves in Uganda, private radio FM stations have been mushrooming and have challenge the four decades of dominance of state radio. Majority of radios are located in big towns while a few at the countryside. Despite the increasing number of radio stations countrywide, women's access and participation has remained minimal. In war torn northern Uganda, The Department of International Development (DFID) built a "community station" radio station-Mega FM. Today it is highly revered for women's empowerment in the region than any other radio station. This is article is twofold. First, it seeks to explore the development of radio industry and the position of women in the ever growing radio industry today. Secondly, it highlights how an alternative radio, specifically Mega FM community radio is contributing to women's empowerment in Northern Uganda.

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In Andhra Pradesh, India, community radio is being used for women's empowerments. (Hindi 2010). In Haiti, The Haitian Women's Community Radio Network (REFRAKA) facilitates radio production on local community issues including women's voice (Bell, 2010). In Burkina Faso, Radio Pengdwendé is sued for raising awareness and increasing womens participation in development Koala 2008. In Niger, The Bankilaré radio station help in local mobilization of women. (Kohler 2008). Examples of women's' driven initiatives like these are endless. They demonstrate women's determination for public sphere in different societies where their voices can be heard in development. While in some societies women have been able to set-up "their own" radios i.e. women's radios, others have not been successful in getting this space. Women still share radios with men but with greater women's involvement and participations.

In Africa, according to African Media Development Initiative (AMDI) Report, the last two decades have seen significant growth in radio industry (AMDI 2006). These growths have been in both community radio and commercial radios. Commercial radios are situated in major cities and towns while community radios have mainly dominated countryside. According to sterling et al, "[t]he number of community radio stations in sub-Saharan Africa has grown from 10 to more than 800 in the last 20 years." (Sterling et al 2007). This makes community radios the most effective form of communication in rural Africa. According to Sibanda, listenership is estimated above at 91.1% in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sibanda 2001; Sterling et al 2007). Women's ownership of the radio is estimated at 67.8%.

In Uganda, since liberalization of airwaves in the mid 1990s, there have been mass waves of radio stations (Khamalwa 2006). There are over 150 radio stations countrywide (Nassanga 2007:4) To date, radios are now in almost all major towns in Uganda reaching all sections of people in the society. These radios have bridged the communication gap between the urban and rural, literate and poor, men and women. The rural poor and marginalized women are taking active in broadcasting. Radio is the main source of information for Ugandans with very high listenership. According to Khamalwa, who cited Intermedia Report of 2005 and Uganda Census Report 2002, he writes that:

Listenership in Uganda is very high, with InterMedia estimating in 2005 that 100% of the population had listened to the radio in the past year, 92.8% in the past seven days, and 73.7% as recently as the day before (InterMedia, 2005).The 2002 census showed that about half of households (49.2%) in the country reported that "word of mouth" was their main source of information, followed by radio (47.8%). This is compared with less than 1% of households who reported the print media (newspapers and magazines) as their main source of information and 1% for TV (UBOS, 2002). (Khamalwa 2006:14)

In Gulu, DFID, commissioned and built a new community radio station, Mega FM, to serve the rural war torn northern Uganda with information needs (Ibrahim, 2007). This station is operational since 2002 serving the marginalized communities of former ex-combatants, women and other sections of the population in northern Uganda due to over two decades of war between the Government of Uganda (GoU) and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). It broadcast in local languages with news and some occasional government and NGOs programmes in English. The radio uses different broadcasting formats to suit different audiences. It employs 45 people with some acting as full time while other works as part time staff (Otim 2007). The revenue for sustainability is majorly generated from NGO sponsored programmes and some commercial advertised by corporate companies. This radio is the most stable radio station in northern Uganda with powerful signal reaching as far as South Sudan and Democratic republic of Congo.

This article is an attempt to show the history of radio broadcasting in Uganda and the position of women in the current fast growing broadcasting industry. It seeks to highlight the contributions of a community radio to women's empowerment in rural northern Uganda while challenging the role of other mainstream radios in the country. It illustrates the importance of alternative media for women as emphasized by feminist media scholars (Jallov 1992; Steiner 1992). This essay proceeds in several steps. First it traces the historical development of radio in Uganda from the colonial time to latest developments in the industry. Secondly, it seeks to show the position of women in radio industry in Uganda to understand women's portrayal, coverage and their participations. In the third section, I discuss several contributions of Mega FM community radio to women's empowerment in rural northern Uganda and finally highlight the challenges of community radios for women's empowerment in countryside northern Uganda.

Growth and Development of radio in Uganda

In 1937, a Committee on Broadcasting Services in the Colonies was set up by the British government. This committee "was charged with the responsibility of investigating the role of broadcasting in the colonies" (Chibita 2006: ). This committee "recommended that radio broadcasting was to be 'instrumental not only, and perhaps not even primarily for the entertainment, but for the enlightenment of the population for their instructions in public health, agriculture, etc" (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990:50). Acording to Chibita, it was until the 1940s, the British felt the need for communication more tha ever because they needed to "explain it polcies, plans, programmes and intentions. It was by now clear that the print media could not carry out this roles. On recommendation of the Plymouth Report,The Uganda Broadacsting Servies was set up to cater for the interest of the colonial officials" (Chibita June 2006:112). Kiwanuka-Tondo adds that this service was set up for major three reasons: Keep foreigners informed, mobilization and governance and public education (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990:54). These reasons are similar to one at the Gold Coast, the modern day Ghana (Head 1979). Therefore in 1954, the first radio named the Uganda Broadcasting Service set up by the British colonial government (Matovu March 1990, Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990).

English became the dominant language on the station with a few Ugandan languages. (Chibita 2006; Chibita 2010; Matovu 1990). "Indeed, radio was used by the governement as an information channel for the primary benefit of the British perosnnel in Uganda, the Asians, and the small but growing group of Uganda elite." (Matovu 1990:348). The radio remained under the control of colonial govenrment. According to Chibita, before independence, the colonial govenrment controlled the radio. She adds that:

Under colonial rule the locals had little access to radio as a political space either as employees or participants in the programming. Apart from monopolizing the airwaves, the colonial government enacted or applied specific laws and statutory instruments including the Penal Code Act of 1950 which criminalized a wide range of media offences including defamation, publication of false news, sedition and embarrassing foreign princes and dignitaries. Inevitably, at the height of the independence struggle, the role of radio as a political space was limited (Chibita 2010 )

By 1957, Ugandan languages had started to dominate the station but they had very limited time on the air. 8 languages were incorporated into the programming (Chibita June 2006). The languages include: English, Luganda, 4Rs, Ateso, Lwo, Lugbara and Hindustani (see Chibita June 2006). The languges shows attempts at regional represnetationby the Bristih governement. For example, 4Rs, (Runyoro, Rutoro, Runakore and Rukiga) are langauges in western Uganda, Lwo is primarily Acholi Langi and Alur in the north while Ateso is primarily eastern and Luganda, the dominant language in the central region. Lungauges like Lugbara were incorprated because of their disticnt aspect.

In 1957, a committee again set up to evaluate the broadcasting service in Uganda (Chibita 2006 Matovu 1990). This committee was led Gervase Harley Chibita 2006). The committee finding was came out in what came to be known: The Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Organization, Policy and Operation of the Government's Information Services. According to Matovu, this report underscored the relevance of broadcast services in the country. The report was also critical of the short broadcasting period in Uganda. Among the problems,

It cited the lack of a more comprehensive news services as well as the low standard of translation and presentation over the microphone. Other criticisms were lack of sufficient programs reflecting the life, interests and culture of the African outside towns, insufficient attention to the needs of women listeners; and lack of diversity of views on current political affairs". The report also noted that local talent in many field was not being fully encouraged and developed. Also, little was being done to establish broadcasting as a patron of the arts. On the whole, the report summed up, the significance of many of the important elements in Uganda's life and society was not being adequately brought out in the programs. (Matovu 1990:349)

Besides being critcal, It also made major recommendations on which the evolution of the Uganda Broadcasting services was to rely. It set up goals for the stations. Some of the recommendations included: Brodcasting in both English and Uganda local langaguges; proper prgramme content including information, education and entertainement; integration of local talent and music and drama; introduce broadcast in secondary schools and finally encourage use if English as a unifying langauge because if varity of Uganda langauges (Matovu 1990:349-350).

In 1962, Uganda gained its independence. Uganda Broadcasting Service became a government broadcast station (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990). It was renamed Radio Uganda (Matovu 1990:350; Chibita 2010). Ugandan started getting access to the radio. Radio became a tool for national consolidation (Chibita 2010 ). Many different programmes and languages were added. "By December 1962, Radio Uganda was bordacsting in 13 languages and the weekly total number of hours brodacst has risen from 19 hours in June to 112 in Decmeber 1962" (Matovu March 1990:351). There was no language policy guideline developed by the British for inclusion of the different languages. Chibita states that "The Bristish Colonial governement did not have a written policy on language use in the media." She adds that in the post-independece years, "The local langauge that got adpoted by state brodcaster came on board one by one, first basing on demographic consideration and later through political pressure" (Chibita 2006:114).

Due to increasing number of languages, broadcasts started on two channels .i.e. red channel and blue channel. "The blue channel is for listeners who speak the Bantu language of the east, west, south and central regions. The red channel broadcasts to listeners who speak vernaculars from the north and north-east" (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990:54). To increase coverage, four booster stations were set up in the four regions of Uganda to ensure countrywide coverage. These booster stations included "Bobi in the north, Butebo in the east, Mawagga in the south and Kyeriba in the west" (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990:54) This did not mean every person had access to the radio. It did not reach everyone since very few people could afford to own radio in the early post independence years.

To complement radio Uganda, the first television station in Uganda was opened in 1963. This came to be called Uganda Television popularly referred to as UTV. This was a Black and White model. It was until 1975, that Idi Amin, a man known globally for his reign of terror in Uganda from 1971-1979, introduced the first coloured television in the face of Ugandans (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990). To enhance coverage, countrywide, The TV boosters were set up in "Mbale in the east, Soroti in the north-east, Lira in the north, Masaka in the south-west and Mbarara in the west" (Kiwanuka-Tondo 1990:54-55). The television access was much harder. It was accessible to only a few privileged persons especially elite and government civil servants. It is important to note that the introduction of Radio Uganda and Uganda Television laid the foundation for development of the broadcast media in Uganda.

From 1963, Uganda's politics started changing drastically. There was no clear demarcation between the central government and Buganda kingdom. When Apollo Milton Obote became the first prime minister of the Republic of Uganda, tension developed between the central government and Buganda kingdom because Kabaka of Buganda was accorded the "the position of ceremonial president" (Chibita 2010) at the time of Independence. The tension between the Republic and Buganda kingdom continued for a long time eventually culminating into what is often referred to as "Uganda crisis of 1966." Obote abolished kingdoms and he went ahead to proclaim himself as the president of the Republic of Uganda. According to Kasozi et al, the "[t]raditional rulers were deposed in 1966-1967 not through votes of their subjects but by decree;…endorsed by the members of parliament" (Kasozi et all:59). Kabaka Mutesa was deported to UK. According to Chibita, "Radio Uganda slowly mutated into a government mouthpiece that was used to denounce those perceived as 'opposition', who, needless to say, had little access to this channel." She adds that "political programming gradually became highly unsafe so radio resorted to parroting government propaganda and 'patriotic' songs." (Chibita 2010:??? ). This souring relation between the central government and Buganda kingdom greatly affected the development of a free media in Uganda.

In 1971, Amin came to power through a military coup. He "…seized power from President Milton Obote, the man who led Uganda to independence in 1962." (BBC????). On assuming power, he reconstituted all the ministries and replaced them with his "right hand men." The military became the centre of the government. He restructured the ministry of information by "…employing military people to head the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, hiring and firing editorial staff at will and interfering, sometimes physically, in editorial policy and content." (Chibita, 2010:???? ) "The years in between saw Idi Amin kill journalists and nationalize newspapers, 'a reversal that . . . significantly limited the role that the media could play.' (Tabaire 2007:194) This greatly affected the growth of media in Uganda. Only radio Uganda and Uganda Television operated but with firm grip on them by them by the dictatorial regime.

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When Idi Amin was deposed by the support of government of Tanzania in 1979 (Tabaire 2007), in 1980, Ugandans went to poll to elect their president. Former president, Obote, was again elected as the president although there are claims of rigging. His second term popular known as Obote was short-lived. Many observers including the incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni, claims the elections was not free and fair. He formed the NRA and started a guerilla war against the then "democratically" elected government of Uganda but in 1985, Obote was toppled internally by his army man General Tito Lutwa Okello in a military coup. Obote for the second time was deposed by his own army leaders. Immediately, "Okello urged all political and insurgent groups to support the new government, but the large NRA group refused to join. Peace talks occurred between the government and the NRA, but no agreement was ever reached."(Marblestone 2005) "The prevailing political atmosphere and legal regime combined to make it impossible for Radio Uganda to serve as an arena that contributed meaningfully to political competition or participation."(Chibita, 2010:?? ).

On January 26, 1986, Museveni seized power from General Okello (Borzello 2007, (Natukunda-Togboa 2008)). According to Batabaire, "Museveni took the oath of office on 29 January 1986 promising that the occasion did not simply amount to another 'mere change of guard' but a 'fundamental change'. In the spirit of this statement, Museveni's NRM government has indeed allowed freedom of expression to a greater extent than previous Ugandan governments" (Tabaire 2007:230). He was then been glorified for making significant improvement compared to the past regimes of Obote and Amin. There was libration of airwaves in 1990s. Kavuma remarks that Museveni "…was originally labeled one of a new breed of African leaders was because of media freedoms. Magazines and newspapers thrived…and broadcast media were liberalised, leading to the creation, over the years, of more than 150 private radio and television stations" (Kavuma 2010). In 1995, the new constitution of the Republic of Uganda bestowed the freedom of speech on Ugandans (Constitution of Uganda 1995) This according to Tabaire earned president Museveni "international praise for cultivating a 'relatively liberal media climate'" (Tabaire Bernard 2007:204).

There was a rise in private FM stations in Uganda. Radio Simba became the first private radio station in Kampala and Uganda. In 1994, Capital radio was again licensed. Later Sanyu FM emerged in 1995. All these were commercially driven radio stations. Radio Simba broadcast in Luganda while Capital and Sanyu are predominantly broadcast in English with only News in vernacular Luganda only. These first three private stations showed the way and in a decade the airwaves became so crowded. Each region started setting up a radio that would broadcast in its own languages. It worth noting that as several private radios emerged; the government owned Radio Uganda lost popularity due to attractive and more entertaining programme from private FMs. In 2005, the Ugandan two giant media houses: Uganda Television (UTV) and Radio Uganda were merged through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Act of 2004 and became into effective on November 16, 2005. (Chibita, 210:?? ).

Women and radio in Uganda.

After a decade and half of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1994 in China, it recommended among many things: increased participation and access to media for women, there have been little gains for women in the media? There is still: Little women' participations and access of women to media. There is still continued imbalanced in media and stereotyped portrayal of women. In Africa, women still lag behind both decision making and participation in media programming. This paper surveys women access to radio in Uganda. It covers among other things: number of women in radio, women coverage, portrayal and participation and finally a snapshot of factors hindering women participations.

In Uganda, there is inadequate data if not almost none on women in decision making and participation in the radio industry. Many surveys on the state of media in Uganda only illustrate: Radio as the most popular media in Uganda. It estimates radio access to be at 92%. It also shows radio is also the main source of information for most Uganda. Many show ownership of the radio stations. Some surveys also show the increasing popularity in community radios while some also highlights the competitions among commercial radios. None of these shows exhaustive data on women's access and participation in mushrooming radios in Uganda.

However, according to Global Report of Women in Media in New Media conducted in the Eastern African countries of Ethiopia; Kenya; and Uganda; surprisingly, it shows "Uganda has the highest proportion (42 percent) of women employees in media organizations" (Kiage and Macakiage 2009:1) followed by Ethiopian and lastly, Kenya at 30% and 26 % respectively. The report shows gender segregation in three radio station in Uganda. It points out that The Central Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Uganda employs 12 female and 48 males. KFM, a Kampala based radio station affiliated to the Monitor News Papers of the Nation Media Group, it employs 11 female and 9 male and Radio Mama employs 23 female and 12 male. However the report does not show what the male and female employees do but it highlights that "There is widespread shortage of women professionals at senior and executive level. Only about a third of positions in top management and senior management are women" (Kiage and Macakiage 2009:2). The absence of women in top managerial positions makes it harder for women to participate effectively through expression and decision-making in media. According to Daisy Anne Namono, Board member of Uganda Television, "There is a woman at the level of Deputy Managing Director at the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation and a few others at the level of Manager Radio or Editors. . . . The institutional structure does not allow effective participation of the Deputy Managing Director in decision making" (UN Public Information 2009). This illustrates the challenges of women in the mainstream media in Uganda.

The Coverage of women in Uganda is found to be very little (Nassanga 2002). According to Nassanga, citing Uganda Media Women's Association's baseline survey in 1994, women received 16% of the media coverage (Nassanga 2002). This coverage are agin concentrated on urban women or those who occupy significant position in society (Nassanga 2002). Women are potrayed as mothers and caretakers (Nassanga and Nattimba 1994). Nassanga argues that media often potray women as "…inept, loose, sex objects, and so on. Women were usually portrayed in traditional domestic roles, and in "feminine occupations" which involved caring or giving service. The few in professional jobs were often shown as social misfits, especially if they had marital problems." (Nassanga 2002), Mukama remarks that women"… are also invariably portrayed as brainless, dependent, indecisive, subservient and sport for men's pleasure." She adds that "Educated working women activists are portrayed as audacious insubordinate agitators, while those who opt to remain single are portrayed as prostitutes, social degenerates, and immoral beings who sleep their way to the top." (Mukama 2002:147). According to Uganda Media Women's Association and Fredrich Ebert Siftung media report of 1998, findings show that:

Women are perpetually stereotyped as domesticated, given to leisure, fashion and beauty interests. They are also invariably portrayed as brainless, dependent, indecisive, subservient and sports for men's leisure. Women are persistently objectified as men's possession." It adds that "Educated working women are projected as audacious insubordinate agitators, while those who opt to remain single are portrayed as prostitutes, social degenerates, and immoral beings sleeping their way to the top. Those who hold high political or administrative positions are branded as incompetent and insufficient. They are ultimately demonised and isolated as irrational and inefficient." (UMWA& FES 1998:11)

Lewis and Boswell, citing Nassanga, the Ugandan "mainstream media institutions are ruthlessly masculinist environments that wholly ignore gender-sensitive reporting, and practice extremely hostile forms of gender discrimination." (Lewsi & Boswell 2002). As a reslut, men's dominance, Wanyeki argues that women "…do not have the means to express their own realities, debate their interpretations of those realities and engage in discussions about potential solutions with decision and policy makers" (Wanyeki 2000:33). Ojiambo asserts that "Mianstream meida has done very little to help women organisations and women at alrge demistify (this kind) of stereotypical thinking" (Ojambo 1999:11). Conclusively, Nassanga points that in terms of types of media, radio was found to be accessible than print media to women (Nassanga 2002).

Finally, on factors hindering entry in managerial position and participation and, several reasons are cited. Anyango cites negative portrayal and poor working condition (Anyango 2009:24). Nassanga see it as due to lack of gender policies……. and keeping women for special purpose reporting (Nassanga 2002). According to According to Anyango, "Research findings indicate that the Ugandan patriarchal society places a lot of barriers in a woman's career path thereby inhibiting professional advancement. Right from birth, it is written that societal norms, values and practices are inculcated into boys and girls such that the boy acquires knowledge and skills for self survival and independence." (Anyango 2009:25). Ojiambo mainstream are doing very little in to alleviate women's position (Ojambo 1999). Nassanga

In sum, the reviewed works illustrates inadequacy of data and insights in Uganda's media on women. They reveal little coverage on women and the negative portrayal and several factors hindering women in achieving a gendered media in Uganda. However, not all negative. For example, Khamalwa claims that in the last five years, more women compared to men joined Journalism (Khamalwa 2006:13) According to Anyago, there has been women's improvement in media coverage due to affirmative action by the governement and aslo the rise of women like Action for Development (ACFODE) and Uganda Media Women's' Association (UMWA) which have championed women's by advocating for positive portrayal and public education and sensitization (Anyango 2009). In Uganda, with the growth of alternative media especially community radio stations, there are avenue for women participations and expressions. In these stations, women's participate in programming. Women have enough space for voicing their concerns although they still lack representation at managerial level. Further study is required to fully understand the women in radio industry, if meaningful gender balance is to be accrued in Uganda's radios and media. How is it then done with Mega FM "community radios"?

"Women are underrepresented in media content when compared to the 50% of the population which they constitute. In reality many more women work than we get to see or read about in media content." (Zoonen 1994:30)

Towards contributions of Mega FM to women's empowerment

There has been contestation about the status of Mega FM. This has generated a great deal of debate. One group argues that Mega FM is a community radio while others reject this proposition and claim that it not a community radio at all. A community radio by definition according to UNESCO is "A community radio station is one that is operated in the community, for the community, about the community and by the community." [1] It adds that "It serves a recognizable community; It encourages participatory democracy; It offers the opportunity to any member of the community to initiate communication and participate in program making, management and ownership of the station; It uses technology appropriate to the economic capability of the people, not that which leads to dependence on external sources; It is motivated by community well being, not commercial considerations, It promotes and improves problem solving." [2] Whatever their view point's, Mega FM calls itself a community radio and has been revered for according space for women's participation in their programming. It employs and produces many women programmes than any radio station in northern Uganda. It has been awarded for participation of women and children. [3] 

David Okidi, the station manager: "Our programming is based on the fact that we need to inform and entertain so even when we are informing we need to do so in a way that is very interesting. So, coming from a background of conflict, our kind of programming should not forget the fact that listeners are depressed and the programming should appeal to them." [4] Its programming is similar to women's community radio in Andhra Pradesh, India, where "The radio's team of reporters collect stories related to agriculture, education, health issues, women's empowerment." [5] Women's programmes are mainly pre-recorded and played as magazines. This is because of lack of access to telephone access by women. Besides recording, women's participations are still welcome through phone-in into on-air programmes and letters which are read on the stations.


"The power of community radio to mobilize groups and bring change to societies is well recognized.") [6] 

Community radios and constructive broadcasting: Mega FM promotes constructive communication for in northern Uganda. Their constructive broadcasting is shape by their understanding concerns and challenges in the community. Programme makers argue that they have wealth of reporters who constantly keep them informed in most community events. According to one radio presenter, "doing a community programmes require understanding of the community." [7] One radio producer adds that "our programming is not just about giving women platform to talk, it about involving them in programming and developing content while aiming at one outcome together." [8] This reflects through understanding of radio programming. Elisa et al believe that "Using radio as a catalyst for social change and development requires thorough understanding of the principles of radio programming. Such principles include the importance of clearly identifying and defining the specific target audience, ensuring continuity of radio programming and making certain that programmes have a strong, locally relevant message." [9] In this way Mega FM works to show positive portrayal of women while carefully highlighting the issues for public understanding and tackling issues that emerge within society. Programmes are tailored to moderated and tailored to meet needs. According to Dyere women's group leader, who is a regular on Mega FM, she notes that "Mega FM deals with women's issues that emerge within our different places." [10] Additionally, another one woman adds that "It does not seek to damage women but it reports in an honest, responsible way.


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