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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Newspaper Industry

Uganda's largest media center is New Vision,which began in 1986 as just a weekly newspaper but has already expanded to daily news, a radio broadcast and TV station. The newspaper is printed in English and four local languages across the different regions, and they have two radio broadcasts, one in English and one in the Central Region language. New Vision also recently started a television station in the local language in order to bring TV broadcasting to the ordinary Ugandans who are not fluent in English.

When we toured New Vision, I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how nice the facilities were. Everything seemed very modern, and they just recently acquired a new printing press. We were shown the entire process of how the paper is created from start to finish.

Although the facilities were modern, we learned that Ugandan journalists are currently facing some tough challenges. While New Vision is partially private, the Ugandan government is the biggest shareholder. We were told that New Vision does not represent government views, but I don't see how journalists can report freely about the government and current politics if their jobs are basically controlled by the government. On the surface it appears that they can write what they want, but in the end, journalists have to be self-censoring themselves because their jobs could be on the line if they report something the government does not like.

This idea of self-censorship is also reflected in some Ugandan laws. While no one directly tells journalists what they can and cannot write, journalists know they have to be careful. Two laws, the law of sedition and the laws about interviewing terrorists, severely restrict how and what the journalists can report. Writing anything injurous to the government can earn a journalist a life sentence in prison. Journalists cannot report any interviews with known terrorist leaders, or they face the death pentalty.

Many journalists in the U.S. can face jail time for certain things, such as not revealing a source, but they would never be given the death penalty. These harsh laws and penalties in Uganda make me think that any political news is going to have a severe censor over it because journalists are so pressured and living in fear of being arrested and put to death.

These laws are a step backward for sustainable development in Uganda. Without a truly free press, Ugandans will not have the right information. We are very privaleged to have this is the U.S., and I think it is absolutely vital to keep the population informed. This seems basically like a type of political corruption in the Ugandan government, which creates a more unstable political environment throughout the country. If journalists are censored, no matter how indirect it is, Ugandans will be kept in the dark, making it easier for government officials to get away with corruption.

I also thought it was interesting to learn that 90% of the newspapers are sold on a daily basis, meaning only 10% of sales are through subscriptions. Since the newspapers depend so heavily on the daily whims of their customers, I feel like this would change the way the news is presented. Since they have so much pressure to market the papers well, I feel like the news will be presented differently. The cover story and headlines for the day determine the sales; there seems to be a direct relation between how eye-catching and interesting the newspaper is and how many papers sell. While this is still a driving factor for the media in the US, ultimately they have more security because of their subscribers. There will be less fluctuation from day to day in the US, make it a more stable industry.

If Uganda could establish a better system of subscribers, it will make the newspapers more sustainable, both for the newspaper and the population. The companies will have more reliable sales, and the population will be more informed because they will have access to the news every day without having to make a daily decision to buy a paper or not.

I think they can also broaden their sales by finding a way to make the newspaper cheaper, both in subscriptions and just buying an individual daily paper. Since so many Ugandans are poor, they have to make the choice between daily necessities and reading the news. If the news industry could find a way to decrease their costs for the consumer, it would increase access to the general population. They already have some success in access because they are printing in multiple languages. Now, they just need to find a way for Ugandans to more easily access the news through a lower cost.


How do you think the internet is affecting newspaper sales now? Will this change in the future?

How do you think that radio and television stations that are controlled by the government will affect how Ugandans can access true, uncensored news?


  1. I think that as the internet services in the country improve, the New Vision will see a drop in sales as many customers get their news online. However, I also think that as the country develops and better records are kept of where people live,there will start to be more of a trend of subscription sales and less on the street.
    The fact that the government is the biggest share holder of the organization is scary to me. Though we were told that this doesn't affect the censor the reporting or distort it in any way, I have a difficult time believing that. I think this goes for print, radio, and television media, and the problem will not be completely solved unless the media is separate from the government. The experience was interesting, and it was neat to compare Ugandan media with our in the United States.

  2. In the US one of the responsibilities ascribed to the press is that of watch dog of the government. Freedom of the press is vital to a country's sustainability because holding government officials accountable for their actions is a major way to fight corruption. Corruption is a huge problem in Uganda and I think that if major newspapers, such as The New Vision, had the ability to report honestly, accurately, and fairly, Uganda would have a much better chance at making a dent in corruption.

    As for Holly's questions:

    I don't think that Internet is having very much impact on newspaper sales in Uganda because most people don't have access to the Internet regularly or if they do, they use the time for emails and other things that can only be done online. I think it has the possibility to change in the future as Uganda becomes more developed, but I think that's a long way off. I don't think that subscriptions will be possible for a very long time either, though. Newspapers are going to have to continue to rely on advertising and daily sales mainly because a national postal system isn't in place - most people don't have actual addresses, so it would be very difficult to know who and where to deliver to. The speaker said that right now only businesses subscribe for their employees. The New Vision has seen a drop in those subscriptions because of the Internet, however, I don't think that's been a major problem because subscriptions make up so little of their newspaper sales.

    As I see it, it doesn't seem like Ugandans really have access to true, uncensored news. Even though The New Vision isn't officially censored by the government, journalists are too afraid to say the wrong thing and get trapped in the horrible justice system. Like Holly said, self-censorship is a big problem, but a necessary evil for journalists if they want to keep their jobs and their lives.

  3. When touring the facility, most of my expectations were met for the newspaper, although the equipment for printing was more advanced than I had been expecting. I thought it was neat to compare how our tv broadcasting runs and is set up compared to theirs. Our news statinos have lighting systems and at least three cameras that are electronically operated. We only got to look through a window at their recording room set-up and see a green screen. I imagine a benefit here for the economy is that more jobs are created because people are needed to manually operate the equipment. This would be a drawback for the actual newspaper though because it would be more efficient for them to employ less people and have more advanced technology.

  4. As of now, I do not think that the internet plays a major role in affecting newspaper sales. This is because the majority of Ugandans have little to no access to the internet, meaning that they are not using the internet as a major source for news information. I do not foresee this changing until the internet becomes more widely available to the general population within Uganda. I also see difficulties in trying to increase the number of subscribers within Uganda due to the general lack of addresses for homes and some businesses.

    As a government run newspaper will impact what information Ugandans receives, so will government run TV and radio stations. This severly limits the ability of Ugandans to receive true, uncensored news since everything that they are receiving has been censored to fit the government's agenda. I think that the only way to change this would be to check the government's power within the nation.

  5. After touring the New Vision facilities, I had a clearer vision on what government money can provide. The facilities were very modern and up to date, especially the newspaper sector. Currently, I would say that the internet is not a major factor in providing news to the majority of Ugandans. I do think this will change in the future, however. It will be interesting to see how New Vision, The Daily Monitor, and other media outlets react to this change. I have a feeling that if New Vision is still is government influenced, it will see a massive amount of spending directed towards the internet movement. As Nate said, The fact that a media outlet is owned my the government is very scary. The media is supposed to help regulate government and call them out when a mistake is made. This is not the case with New Vision. Until the government is changed, I do not see Ugandans receiving true, uncensored news, especially with New Vision printing some of the Daily Monitor's articles.

  6. I was really impressed by New Vision because of all the places we went to during the trip, New Vision was by far the most advanced or at least to me resembled something comparable to what is typical in the U.S. for News paper and press production. Another factor that surprised me was the fact that even though NV is 50% government owned it is the most distributed newspaper in Uganda, which shows to me that even if the current political party doesn't get voted out in the next election, with proper focus and a little moral backbone the government still has potential to help create thriving industries and better businesses.

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