A television study on the influence of media ownership on news content in Uganda: a comparison of Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) and Nation Television (NTV).
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The media play an important role of entertaining, educating and informing society (Herman and Chomsky, 1988:1). The education and information offered by the media consequently helps citizens to make informed decisions. However, a number of factors including media ownership have over time stifled the functions of the media limiting its ability to advance issues of public interest (Mcchesney, 2008:37; Nyarko, 2015: ii). This study therefore sought to investigate how media ownership has influenced news content in Ugandan television stations. The study compared two television stations (WBS and NTV) representing different ownership structures. WBS is an independently owned station while NTV is owned by a regional media conglomerate called Nation Media Group (NMG). A study on television was necessary given that the existing literature on media ownership in Uganda does not adequately address television. Most studies on this subject have focused on newspapers and radio stations. Yet, television is increasingly becoming a major source of information for many Ugandans. Quantitative content analysis and in-depth interviews were the main methods used in this investigation. Content analysis was used to examine news bulletins on the two stations to establish how the differences in ownership structures affected news content. In total, twenty news bulletins were examined. The in-depth interviews were employed to collect respondents‘ views on the influence of media ownership on editorial independence as well as the effect of external factors on news. The data from the interviews was also used to complement the results from quantitative content analysis. The study found out that media ownership influenced news content on the two television stations during the period under study. It however contradicted the view in the political economy of the media that media concentration diminishes the performance of television stations. The findings demonstrated that NTV (which is owned by a media concentration) had more diverse news bulletins than WBS which is independently owned. It was further discovered that NTV journalists exercised more editorial independence than their counterparts at WBS. However, it was observed that news content in all television stations in Uganda, regardless of the structure of ownership, was affected by political interference and advertisement. Both politicians and advertisers influenced news content directly and indirectly.