By: Edris Matu Segawa
Every year, there's a lineup of mandatory special LIVE BROADCASTS that Ugandan-based television houses are required to cover and air under the broadcasting policy or due to commercial demand.
These range from National/Global Holiday events, Presidential Addresses, and corporate gatherings to government calendar proceedings. In the early 2000s, Uganda was dominated by not more than five TV stations, a far cry from today's ever-expanding digital era of an easy to set-up media house frenzy.
THE PROBLEM:With over 100 TV stations today (some really questionable), there's a fierce and brutal competitive atmosphere for viewership, bragging rights, and most importantly advertisers' money. What station is showing the trending event? Who has the most credible access to the hottest news and influential politicians: especially Presidential and parliament events plus the five-year term cycle of general and presidential elections. It's a dogfight for numbers. With this primal hunger to stay on top, most TV stations, newspapers, and Radio stations will crowd all high-security and exclusive government events with reporters and film crews and this equals = CONGESTION + HIGH-SECURITY RED TAPE + REDUNDANCY. Often so, CONGESTED on a small platform, you will find over 20 camera operators struggling to capture a similar shot of a dignitary speaking at the podium. By design a bunch of them will either get a profile shot of the President or blurry shadows crossing from side to side and any camera man knows: framing kills or makes a shot. It's that important in broadcasting and on a human resource level, this way of working can cripple creativity and morale. Nevertheless, a skeptical mind might think, 'It's a competition. Whoever gets a better shot wins viewership. Let them fight'. Well I think that is a 'not-beyond-your-nose' way of thinking for unpaid-for special Live broadcasts. This elbow to elbow formula might work for impromptu interviews and press conferences but a 5-7 hour live Liberation day celebrations event at Kololo ceremonial grounds, it's not ideal. It's more intense and demanding on a non-rotational crew. The 3rd June Martyr's day celebration is an example of how limited space and resources can be. Thousands of Christians and believers trek from around the world and camp for days at the main Catholic Namugongo Shrine, Nakiyanja, Kigungu and Munyonyo churches and It's safe to say that most TV station production crews have to spread their resources thin in order to pull off that day.
Splitting crews to different locations to handle the multi-camera-location live broadcast (For denomination inclusivity purposes) to hunting for SNG/OB VAN set-up space in a parked convoy of broadcaster machinery and discomforting pilgrims. It can truly be a hustle, that day. Additionally, the HIGH-SECURITY RED TAPE is a necessary evil but continually frustrates the on-location filming crew even further. In this COVID-era, crew members have to get accreditation from government security bodies, a COVID test, and a thorough body and equipment search before entry (this can last for hours),and by the time a crew starts the LIVE broadcast, it's been a mentally strenuous process. Security becomes a harder job as numbers grow and at times tempers fly even egos bruised when lists are reduced and names deducted. Inevitably this environment creates REDUNDANCY on location, be it in waiting for hours or duplicating each other's work - there is no financial or human resource efficiency. It's a misguided oversight that media houses keep forwarding lists of hundreds of reporters and crew members for accreditation to secure an expected invite to these events. ..but the thing is, all the major media groups like NMG, VISION GROUP, NEXT MEDIA, and UBC have a bottom-line goal and that's to 'MAKE MONEY WITH LESS EXPENSE'.
Government and national Holiday special LIVE BROADCASTS are not paid for! It's a necessary investment to retain viewership, bragging rights, and credibility. Compared to the resources each of these TV stations has, it's becoming more and more expensive to cover multiple non-direct commercial LIVE broadcasts without compromising product quality and output. THE SOLUTION:Rotational JOINT LIVE BROADCASTS, a scenario where the major players share resources to produce the calendar-major events or each station takes up one or two and shares a clean feed to the other partners. This can save time, and resources and in the process promote productive synergies for the media industry at large. Currently, this is done in an 'unofficially-let me do you-a-favor kinda-way' but it needs to take center stage and become a norm amongst competing TV stations. UBC is Switzerland in this media network. (a wink to you) With a single 'joint Live broadcast crew' mobilized by the 'big boys', the quality and efficiency in picture and execution will be improved immensely. Each station can put forward its strongest resource and a skill-share work environment is never a bad one. A committee of sorts can be agreed upon to always organize and check any bad apples but going forward, egos need to be placed in the back room and left there. Security would not have to deal with large numbers, on the other hand, less congestion can improve operations while killing redundancy in the process. This has more advantages than cons. A standardized and uniform broadcast would be in the organizers' best interest. THE CHALLENGE:Getting these chess players to agree on a collaboration might sound possible but usually, two bulls never stay in one kraal. I hope for the best. About me:I have been working in the media industry for over ten years now and thankful to have the experience, met people and earned a little living along the way. Thank you for reading this blog and now kindly share with a friend and leave a comment, to continue the conversation. See you next time. Edris Matu SegawaScreenwriter and ProducerNTV Uganda MASKIO FILMS cell: +2567 00 342 297