The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in huge financial pressures on radio stations across the country with little or no revenue from advertisers, the main source of income for the broadcasters.
Several businesses have come to a standstill since the lockdown which started in March. The absence of advertisers, and sponsors for programmes and talkshows hosted by the radio stations means that they can nolonger make enough money to sustain their wage bill and other running costs.
The lockdown also means that the stations need to spend much more to provide protective gear, and to transport staff from different places since the ban on public transport rendered many of them immobile. Some of them now accommodate essential staff at the offices, some have been sent on forced leave, and others have been laid off.
Although reports indicate a rise in media consumption as many Ugandans are locked down in their homes, the radio stations are struggling to maintain the pace. These were findings of a virtual interaction held between Uganda Radio Network and radio station managers from different parts of the country.
At Radio Pacis in West Nile, a Catholic founded radio, local revenues have reduced almost by half. The station representative Gaetano Apamaku said that program sponsorships have drastically fallen, yet this was the biggest contributor to the sustainability of the station.
He says that the night curfew also means that prime time shows have to be suspended. Gaetano says that despite the fall in revenues, the station is spending much more on transport, and other requirements.
He says they have had to cancel vital programs like community dialogues and debates.
James Bagyenzi from Hope Radio in Kabale, says that most Non Government and Civil society organisations that are main sponsors have stopped activities, with only a handful in health.
He says some staff have unfortunately been laid off, especially the presenters and this is because of the hard times.
According to Dick Nvule, an Editor at Radio Simba in Kampala says that the selection of essential and non essential staff has resulted in rifts and evoked suspicion among the staffs who advised to stay home.
He says station revenues have also drastically reduced.
Gilbert Matsiko, the station manager of Mountains of the Moon FM in Fort Portal says they asked some of their staff and volunteers who stay far away from the radio station to stay home.
He says as a result, programming was completely interrupted, and programs scaled down. Matsiko says as a community radio, they are not receiving any revenue.
From Northern Uganda ,Jackie Adure, the News Editor of Speak FM in Gulu says that the station revenues from adverts, announcements and sponsorships have drastically dropped.
At Karamoja FM located in Kotido, things are a little different , possibly because it is the only radio station in the district.
According to Joe Wacha, the manager of the station, their revenues had fallen by 50 percent when COVID-19 hit the country, but now the situation has become even better with more NGOs sending in COVID-19 messages.
He however says that stations in Moroto district, also in Karamoja have laid off staff.