A study conducted by a research company that focuses on what content works for both pay Tv and terrestrial Tv broadcasters has concluded that the quality of Uganda television programming has been held back by the endless supply of cheap soap operas and gossip shows.The study, conducted between July 2015 and May this year, asked 2,900 respondents from six major towns of Uganda namely Mbarara, Entebbe, Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, Gulu to rank programs aired by 5 major television stations in the country with market leader NTV Uganda, NBS Uganda, WBS Uganda, UBC Uganda and Bukkedde Tv. When respondents were asked to give television programs a score between 1 and 5, the majority of them put soap operas and gossip shows at the bottom of the list. The findings from the survey ask the country’s broadcasting stations to think about the future of Uganda’s young generation. The greater public appear to want quality content at the moment,’ a researcher told me when we had a conversation few days ago.Gossip shows, locally known as infotainment, ranked lowest out of nine types of shows subjected to the study, scoring 2.0, two full point lower than the minimum threshold of 4.0 set by the UK based research company for a show to be deemed of a good quality. Infotainment scored especially low in the aspect of respecting private life, only getting 1.8.Soap operas did not fare much better, scoring 3.78, with the educational aspect receiving the lowest score of 1.6.The researcher told me that some of the respondents who have to watch soap operas on a daily basis were aware of its bad quality and the toll that it took on the character of the country’s youth.The author of the report claimed that soap operas were responsible for a decline in youth morality in Uganda.
I just came back from Uganda, and many cases of sexual violence could be attributed to youth exposure to crummy television,’ he wrote to me in an email. Then in Kampala, there are elementary school students who got into brawls and got kicked in the head. Where did this behavior come from? Most likely it was from imitating others. But from where? Did it come from their surroundings?’ Soap operas have been considered a cash cow for Uganda television since the early part of the last decade with simple and melodramatic storylines designed for the middle and lower classes.A bloke working as program creative development department head for a Uganda Tv station whom i sought his views said that low quality content continued to dominate the television industry due to the outsize role played by the ratings system. The TV industry is still driven by ratings,’ he said.He also claimed that low-quality content was what Ugandans demanded. To improve things, the viewers’ mindset has to be shaped. In order to do that, we have to design quality programs. But the trend hasn’t shifted in that direction because the content is programmed to follow what is liked by audiences,’ he said. In order to change the paradigm of the TV industry, some folks are lobbying the local advertising agencies to start putting ads on quality programs. ‘We are slowly trying to shift the paradigm so that when advertisers are looking to advertise their products, the paradigm is to look for quality shows,’ an advertising executive working with one of Kampala based agency wrote to me. She said that it would not be easy to break the habit in Uganda but the key to improving the quality of TV content is to persuade advertisers.She alluded to me that the lobbying is still in the early stages and it will be difficult for advertisers to want to change their behavior. But there’s no harm in trying Contador Harrison,’ she wrote.