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TECHNOLOGY: UCC passes strict guidelines to Media Houses prior to the scheduled Digital Campaigns

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Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has issued tough guidelines on the expected practice by broadcasting media houses regarding campaigning and elections reporting for the 2021 general elections.

According to UCC, the issued guidelines provide basic requirements to achieve balance, fairness, and impartiality in election coverage.

The guidelines cover political advertising, equitable access to talk-shows, equal coverage to candidates and media sponsorship on both private and public media during election period.

The key highlights in the guidelines issued include;

Reasonable Access: Stations will not turn away candidates running for presidential and parliamentary seats and they must provide them with “some” access in dayparts ie; morning, lunchtime, evening and nightshows.

However, stations may decline to carry adverts for local government races since candidates for those races have no statutory right to reasonable access.

Equal opportunity: Whenever a candidate appears on the station, the appearance creates an equal opportunity for the candidates opponent for the same amount of time to reach a similarly sized audience. This also applies to incidents where a candidate is a host or an anchor of a news programme.

However, this may not apply where a candidate accidentally appears in media either through news casts, interviews, documentaries and on-spot coverage of news events.

No discrimination: In making time available to candidates, no media will discriminate between candidates or give preference to some candidates or political party.

All state-owned media stations, in accordance with the presidential Elections Act 2005, and Parliamentary Elections Act, shall schedule meetings with nominated presidential candidates/ parliamentary candidates to agree on the schedule or time table for campaigns, and how it can be shared equitably among the contenders.

All private media stations shall ensure that all the advertising space and airtime is not bought by one party and therefore all candidates/political parties must be given an opportunity to purchase campaign airtime where they so request.

All candidates to whom broadcast time is sold are entitled to the lowest unit charge of the station for the class, amount of time, and time period they wish to purchase.

Stations must develop, publish rates and terms of advertising to candidates describing each class of time available to commercial advertisers and talk-shows as well as the method of selling airtime.

Stations should not allow candidates for political offices to buy spots during the news but they can offer a news adjacency class of time to candidates.

Candidates must be allowed to buy airtime directly from a station and the billing should not be any different from commercial advertisers including discount privileges.

In an event of strong disagreement between the media house and political party/ candidate, the issued guidelines indicate that the two sides will seek adjudication from UCC before resorting to courts of law.

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