A network of all community media in Uganda was launched on 12th April at Uganda Media Women’s Association and Mama Fm Premises in Kisaasi. The Network includes community radio stations, Tel-centers, and Community Libraries. “Community media in Uganda is misunderstood based on ethnic background or geographical setup” says Jimmy Okello, Coordinator COMNETU and Director Radio Apac. He clarified that, community media is generally not for profit, aimed for particular communities and intended to communicate for social Justice.
Role of COMNETU
Jimmy Okello said that COMNETU aims to highlight the role of community media in enhancing social development through advocating for social change. Micheal Oyam, manager Shine Fm explains how community media has helped to bring peace and development in northern Uganda. He says “Shine Fm has helped to reduce on cases of domestic violence and any other violence in the communities through the radio programming”. Oyam believes COMNETU will assist community media to solicit for funds as a network. Margaret Sentamu, Executive Director, Uganda Media Women’s Association/Mama Fm says, COMNETU will create awareness on existence of community media, and their relevance in development to the civil society organizations and government.
Community media depend on a wide pool of volunteers for its administration and management. However use of volunteers comes with its own challenges. When the volunteers acquire the skills, they run away for greener pastures. “We have become a breeding ground for commercial radio stations, every presenter you find around Kampala is from Nabweru” says Hannigton Ssonko, Nabweru Community Media Center. However, Dr Musheshe Mwalimu founder Kagadi Kibaale community radio urged COMNETU members to professionalize volunteers so as to keep up with the competition in the media.
“Being urban based you keep on getting competition from commercial radio stations in the urban setting” says Margaret Sentamu. Beside that the licensing fees are very high. Mama Fm is charged a fee just like any other commercial radio station in Kampala and yet Mama Fm is offering public service on behalf of government. She hopes that COMENTU will help civil society organizations realize the need to work as development partners with community radios than spending huge budgets on commercial radios.
Peter Olowo, UNESCO-Uganda called upon the members in the network to set the agenda for community media in Uganda. He also revealed that UNESCO together with Ministry of Justice are finalizing a research that aims at identifying and assessing policies, legislation, regulations and codes that will directly and indirectly relate to community media in Uganda.
The one-day’s event to launch the activities of the Network brought in together managers and staff from community media houses, broadcasting media and civil society organizations. They include: Radio Apac, Shine FM, Nakaseke Tele-center, Kagadi Kibaale Community Radio, Mama Fm, WOUGNET, Uganda Development Services, Nabweru Community Media Center, Buwama Fm, Wizarts Media and Ministry of Justice.