DOES TV IN UGANDA HAVE AN IDENTITY?
On the 24th January, the Lantern Meet of Poets wound up their theatrical production whose theme was “What shall we name this child?” The poetry production explored the topic of Ugandan Identity especially the question of “what makes one Ugandan?”
The following day I sat back to catch up with what was and is trending on TV. And I was struck with the uniformity with which the mainstream television stations run in terms of programming. Do our television stations have any identity? One where one can find a particular kind of program line up different from the normal?
When you sacrifice a minute to watch the content on your television set, you cannot hate but wonder the laziness that television houses are operating. Maybe the right question would be, “what went wrong?”
First, I will say that the pressure mounted onto the houses to get digitised has seen them rush through a revamp of their programs. From 2012, every television house has rebranded for more than twice trying their best to be at the top. I took off time to explore the programs run on the mainstream television stations which include NTV, NBS, WBS, Urban and Bukedde. UBC is one of its kind, it is far back from what others are doing.
What am I saying?
Our mainstream televisions are all lost in the same old programming which is traced from Uganda Television (UTV) where everyone always waited for the news at ten. When WBS came in as a private player in the early 2000, it began running prime news time at nine. This became a house hold item which was copied by all. I need to be educated of a television station that does not run its news at nine. Don’t say Bukedde. When Agataliko Nfuufu ever becomes anything that is closer to news, only then shall it be included here. News presentation is even worse. It is always the same gentleman and lady seated on that table reading from the screen in front of them with a dormant tablet in handy.
When NBS introduced the Morning Breeze following presidential elections in 2011, today every station has a breakfast show at least with the word morning written somewhere. First was the Morning Breeze, then Good Morning Uganda on UBC, Morning Flavour on WBS and Morning at NTV save for Urban @dawn on Urban TV. Is “morning” the catch phrase? Or is there no morning show without being descriptive of time?
Television programming denies chance to a dedicated ‘watcher’ a chance of falling in love with its content. From six in the morning till late at night, programs are the same. In Uganda today, you only need to watch one station and know what is showing on the other stations. Usually after the morning show follows a movie, if you’re lucky not to have a soap. Then you have news at one followed by a sports program and another movie or soap. The exchange gets worse when it clocks five in the evening and clowns of all colour and shape find a fitting position on the screen of your TV set. It is a tricky position where human beings have to compete with inanimate cartoons in the name of entertainment. And by the way, you are expected to enjoy. It is not an interesting position at all. Of course, the rest of the programming continues in the same direction. Have you watched the magazine programs that cover events? Talk of Showtime magazine, Pundonor magazine, Login and Back Stage pass; I will not talk about presenters’ accents. Not even of those presenters that fake CNN’s Richard Quest gestures or VOA’s Shaka Sali.
My biggest worry and concern is that if nothing is done (to improve the programming), the viewers, with digital TV at hand, shall be left with no choice but explore all the television stations that are there to spice their viewing. I don’t know whether our stations fear competition or not? But whatever the case, it might be too late. Television stations ought to open up to the real meaning of competition. They stand a chance of losing part of their audience to international stations that offer more admirable services.
Maybe the only question I leave for all the television stations in Uganda is, “What is your identity as a television station?”
DOES TV IN UGANDA HAVE AN IDENTITY?