NEWSPAPER ADVERT SPARKS WAR AMONG MEDIA OWNERS WITH IMPACT FM’S SERWADDA LEADING DISGRUNTLED ONES
By Mulengera Reporters
Stung by repeated claims of quacks among their midst, the leadership and membership of Uganda Media Association (UMOA) and Uganda Advertising Association (UAA uniting agencies that handle client adverts’ placing at a fee) on Wednesday placed a joint newspaper advert listing media houses and advertising agencies they are responsible for and recognize as credible enough to do business with. Basically, appearing on their list simply means peers believe in a media house or advertising agency’s standards as good enough. That validation is also recognition that you are an entity that clients should freely deal with because in case of any disagreements, the matter can be referred to the respective association for remedy and resolution.
There are more radio stations, media houses and advertising agencies operating in Uganda than what appeared on the UMOA/UAA joint public notice aimed at guarding the unsuspecting members of the public against quacks that UMOA Administrator Evelyn Ochakacon says have manifested by way of some media houses being duped to run adverts and clients’ messages delivered through entities that are obscure and go underground, without paying media houses, as soon the advert has been published or aired. There are also clients that are complicated and are fond of defaulting on paying agencies the moment the message has been published. Alternatively, they deal with the agency first and once a huge bill has been accumulated, they sideline the agency and begin dealing with media houses (UMOA members and non-members) directly.
Ochakacon says the UMOA/UAA platform ensures exchange of information to minimize situations of either the media houses or advertising agencies being cheated. Under UMOA, its also true if a client becomes complicated, trying to treat some media houses more favorably than others, the matter is jointly confronted and Ochakacon says through such joint actions, including in court, big sums of money has previously been recovered from huge advertising clients, like telecoms, on behalf of the media houses.
However, the Wednesday list excluded many radios especially from upcountry, something that has kicked off a storm. Led by Bushenyi FM’s Julius Tumusiime, more than 100 upcountry radio stations managers and owners are up in arms accusing UMOA of ganging up with the big-name media entities in Kampala to totally exclude and push them towards business collapse. In an interview with Mulengera News, Tumusiime claimed its dangerous and misleading to potential clients for UMOA to only recognize the few radios on its list while excluding upcountry ones which he says command a 70% market share in the rural districts where majority Ugandans live. He says the upcountry radios, 120 of which sometime back came up with Rural Broadcasters Association (RUBA) ostensibly to protest UMOA chauvinism (as he called it), remain aggrieved and are going to drag UMOA to court seeking declaration to the effect that it amounts to impersonation for the UMOA and UAA Secretariats in Kampala to come with “a list of accredited members yet accreditation is the work of UCC and Uganda Media Council.”
He claimed that the UMOA/UAA list had left them weakened as the potential advertisers now see them as not good enough to do business with because of their exclusion from the list. That UMOA should have placed a disclaimer clarifying their accreditation is different from UCC’s which is mandatory. Ochakacon disagrees with this narrative and says Tumusiime and group know why they missed out on the UMOA list and it has to do with their unwillingness or lack of means to pay the UMOA membership fee initially of Shs2m and another Shs1.7m paid annually for one to remain a member. UMOA membership entitles a media house to having its staffers (especially the sales teams) participate in the very empowering capacity building training sessions UMOA organizes from time to time. Ochakacon says that UMOA members also benefit from the association acting jointly to strengthen industry commercial interests so that they aren’t exploited or underpaid by clients. She also discusses why many upcountry media outlets aren’t UMOA members. That it’s not just failure to get the money but also lack of awareness regarding the benefits of maintaining active membership to such associations. She references on Dr. Kin Kariisa’s NAB whose annual membership fee is just Shs450,000 for Kampala media houses and Shs250,000 for the much-constrained operators from upcountry. She says even under NAB many upcountry aren’t members.
She also faults Tumusiime and his ilk of making very unrealistic demands including insisting that UMOA gets adverts and business for upcountry media houses in return for the Shs1.7m they are required to pay to renew annual membership. She says this is a very unrealistic demand “which even RUBA can’t do for its members because its impossible.” She explains that whereas NAB takes up issues that require lobbying the government to ensure favorable policy formulation, UMOA strictly deals with commercial aspects to ensure members aren’t exploited or cheated for the adverts they have run. She says in the past media houses took an eternity to get paid for the adverts they have run, either because clients delayed to pay or the agency diverted the money, but this is no more for UMOA members because the standard practice is that a media house must get paid within 45 days after running the adverts.
She says that way UMOA members are able to run their businesses more smoothly. She says in case an advertiser or client mistreats their member through payment deprivation, they can jointly agree not to run that client’s messages until the anomaly is rectified. She says some of the giants they have taken on as UMOA are so big there is no way a single media house can successfully manage. She says the standards-setting for the industry that UMOA stands for, isn’t something new because its exactly what happens in more advanced economies like Kenya and SA. Ochakacon adds that the high standards UMOA stands for have led to increased transparency in the way media houses go about advertising revenue management, something some sales employees are uncomfortable with because they have been used to conniving with advertising agencies or even individual clients to cheat owners of media houses or their employers. “That is why some media houses are collapsing when people working their as sales executives are thriving like never before and its something UMOA is here to work against, the very reason why some of those sales reps are bitter and mislead employers that UMOA isn’t a good thing.”
Former UAA President Nada Andersen, whose StarLeo appears on the list, corroborates Ochakacon’s utterances and adds that the self-regulation, as inspired by the two associations, has made life better for everyone including the media owners and employers. Nada says by insisting on media houses that meet their tax obligations, pay NSSF benefits for employees, promptly pay employee salaries and have physical offices, the UMOA/UAA platform helps protect everybody against briefcase entities that tend to be cheat and very exploitative. She agrees with Ochakacon that the founding of the two associations, slightly over 10 years ago, was inspired by the injustices stakeholders used to encounter. “Now there is a code of conduct and everything that goes on between UAA and UMOA is guided by an MoU which one reads before taking up membership,” says Nada who has been an actor in the Ugandan media terrain for decades.
The duo implied that inability to achieve and play by high levels of compliance with regulatory requirements is the reason many advertising agencies and media houses are unable to meet requirements for association membership and instead of admitting their inadequacies, they have resorted to blackmailing UMOA. Ochakacon admits that disagreements regarding membership fees and benefits one must get led to some getting disgruntled resulting into the founding of entities like RUBA whose bosses she says will soon be hit by reality. “Let’s be frank and not mislead some media owners especially upcountry who may not know some of these things. Okay you are RUBA; how are going to operate and maintain offices, staff and capacity building programs without imposing membership fees? Some of these meetings are in top hotels and you have to pay a lot of money yet UMOA doesn’t have many sources of funding apart from membership fees,” says Ochakacon.
The UMOA Admin adds that the logistics involved in running these associations is the reason UMOA is housed at Radio One on premises offered by one of the members just like NAB is housed at Dr. Kin Kariisa’s Next Media head offices in Kamwokya. “They keep saying they can lobby business for members. We wait to see how far they can go with that. We wish them luck but for us can’t be pushed into things that can’t work because doing that would be an act of micromanaging. Why should I know the inside business details of say Vision Group or any other member? That is not my business as UMOA.”
Tumusiime, who used to be UMOA Executive member representing Western region, denies claims that those disgruntled represent less significant media houses. “By the way its not just upcountry. We have even entities in Kampala that were excluded take the example of Pastor Serwadda of Impact media. We are with him because he too is aggrieved with that advert and the impression it creates against us that didn’t feature on that list,” he says. He also references on the likes of Minister John Byabagambi, Barnabas Tinkansimire, ex-MP Nulu Byamukama of Endigyito radio and Patrick Bitature who he says own radios upcountry that are active RUBA members. Its in that spirit that Byabagambi, who owns Rwenzori fm in Ibanda, offered his Kamwokya building to host the RUBA headquarters in Kampala. But Ochakacon says the likes of Serwadda are ineligible for UMOA membership because they are in a category called religious media houses and not commercial. “That is why they can rely on money church members pay in those envelopes labelled media support which we can’t do. For us we are primarily on adverts unlike them who won’t run an advert about beer or even condoms however lucrative the deal might be.”
She clarified that not being on the UMOA list in the advert doesn’t necessarily mean such Faith-based media platforms (like Serwadda’s Impact, Bugingo’s Salt Media and Senyonga’s Top Media) have compliance issues “because we haven’t even had the opportunity to assess their eligibility because they aren’t meant to be commercial like others.” She said even when they wouldn’t hesitate taking up such a media house if they stepped forward seeking UMOA membership, such hasn’t happened because they seem comfortable with that status of non-commercial. She said she would be surprised if indeed Serwadda is aggrieved with the wording of the advert or even the exclusion of his Impact media “because we have been to his place many times and explained to him everything regarding what UMOA stands for and how we operate.”
Sources say there is also panic among some of the UAA members after some big-spending clients or entities like UMEME signaled readiness to get away from agencies (perceiving them as a cost) and begin dealing with media houses directly. There are also concerns being raised by those excluded that some of the new agencies that were listed in the UMOA/UAA advert are being run by people who have dubious past having previously worked with agencies that UMOA and UAA themselves had blacklisted for dubious business practices. Some of the key actors behind some of the agencies on the UMOA/UAA list include David Galukande (Brand Vision), Peter Igaga (Grindstone currently doing some PR Work for UCC), Nada Andersen (StarLeo), Ian Packer (WAB Advertising), Josephine Mugumba (Metropolitan Republic), Paul Bwengye (ABBAVATER with contract to market Uganda Airlines), Joshua Kamuhangire (Havas) and Ariho Kamara (Nomad) just to mention a few. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 or email us at email@example.com).