Kampala. The government has selected the Information and Communications Technology ministry to handle all government communications, including advertising, a move likely to hurt revenue of private media houses, this paper can reveal.
Mr Patrick Ocailap, the deputy secretary to the Treasury, in a letter notified all accounting officers that the government will in the next financial year, which starts in July, implement a centralised media buying strategy for communications from ministries, departments and agencies.
“By copy of this letter, all central government accounting officers are informed and requested to follow up with ministry of ICT and National Guidance on the implementation of the centralised media buying strategy,” he wrote.
Mr Ocailap yesterday confirmed issuing the notification and said he was just communicating a decision by Cabinet.
Masterminds claim that the initiative will help the government save up to 20 per cent through discounted advertising rates, which money could be channelled to other priority areas.
“This is, therefore, to inform you that a sum of Shs13b has been consolidated under your ministry [ICT] to cater for the implementation of the centralised expenditure media buying strategy; and this will be communicated in the medium term expenditure framework in the 2nd budget call circular for FY 2019/20,” reads the letter.
However, funds for statutory bodies, security agencies, the Finance ministry and that of Tourism will not been consolidated for the centralised media buying.
The government is the top advertiser in Uganda, according to Mr Kin Karisa, a media investor and chairperson of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
Mr Ocailap’s letter references President Museveni’s February 6, 2019 communication over the same matter.
Uganda will be the second country in the region to centralise media buying. Kenya did so in 2017.
The government’s latest move, although superficially good as an austerity measure, carries within a carrot-and-stick ingredient that analysts suggest will compromise critical reporting of government as media houses will fear losing on its advertising revenue.
“It is a ploy by government to enforce compliance for media houses. If a media house does not comply, government will deny you adverts to suffocate you and drive you out of business,” said Dr William Tayeebwa, the head of Journalism and Communication department at Makerere University. However, Mr Karisa yesterday said centralising media buying will help them cut costs.
“We support this initiative. We have many sales executives going through government ministries [to look for adverts] and sometimes government delays to pay. If government gets professional agents to sell ads, we will get value for money and government will benefit,” he said.
According to Col Shaban Bantariza, the deputy executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, many ministries have been wasteful in their public communications spending and the new initiative seeks to reverse haemorrhage.
“There have been ministries that have been putting albums in the media. What kind of communication is that? There have also been ministries and agencies that have been holding funds for communication,” Col Bantariza said.
Mr Ocailap last evening said the misgivings by media scholars and media rights activists notwithstanding, the government has “good intentions” in its efforts to centralise media buying.