MEDIA AND PUBLICITY EXPENDITURE BY CANDIDATES AND PARTIES IN THE 2021 ELECTION

Published by Patra K on

Media and Publicity expenditure by candidates and parties in the 2021 election 

Presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi in November 2020 during a talk show at Spice FM in Hoima district right before he was ejected by state security. (Photo courtesy of Daily Monitor)

Uganda’s National Electoral commission guided that the candidates and political parties in the 2021 election would adapt a scientific election campaign approach that would use majorly media. This implied a shift towards digital democratic campaigns. This was later blended into with other campaign approaches in what came to be known as a “hybrid campaign”. The digital campaigns prompted significant demand and competition for media space including; TV, radio, print media, social media, and other community communication channels. 

Research carried out by ACFIM showed that the total spending on media and publicity was UGX 41,846,460,100 billion ($11,853,031) accounting for 5.3% of the total costs of campaign spending. The findings indicated that NRM outspent all other political parties and all affiliations on media spending and publicity at 63.6% (UGX 26.5 billion ($11,853,030.75)

 Table: Spending on Media and Publicity by Political Party

Political Party

 Min. Spent (Ugx) 

 Percentage 

 NRM 

           26,522,790,200

                   63.64

 Independents

           12,195,740,134

                   29.26

NUP

 

2,139,203,700

 

5.13

DP

 

 

373.839,000

 

0.90

FDC

278,300,030

 

0.67

ANT

63,388,330

0.15

 UPC 

                  59,537,388

                     0.14

 Others 

                  45,367,800

                     0.11

           41,678,166,582

                 100.00

 Source: Campaign Finance Analytical Platform (2021) 

Analysis also shows that radio and TV were the most expensive forms of media used in election campaigns at 46.8% (UGX 19.6billion ($5,551,709)) and 24.7% (UGX 10.3 billion ($2,917,480)) respectively. Television was mainly used by politicians and political parties at national level and other wealthy politicians in urban centers as well as in politically sensitive and competitive constituencies. 

The most common forms of media campaigns were political talk shows, debates, adverts, DJ mentions and endorsements, campaign songs, squeeze backs, and scrolls. Media designed attractive packages to strategically position themselves to tap into the campaign budgets of the politicians. 

New media mainly facebook, YouTube, Watsapp, and others were used by the youthful population that subscribes to the National Unity Platform (NUP) and NRM. This is attributed to the increasing number of young people with smartphones and civic conscience about democracy issues.

However, over 51% of the media houses covered did not realize returns based on business projections before the campaign. There was a proportion of media houses (23%) whose business returns improved. These mainly included those whose business profiles were already high.

Analysis indicates that a gagged media environment was the top reason media houses did not realize business expectations. The state apparatus provided restrictive measures to media houses not to host particular opposition candidates. Media houses reported threats and restrictions from UCC, Resident District committees, and state security agencies to alter and abandon specific programming that targets particular candidates. 

There were reported cases that media time at specific radios was bought out by the state at lower rates as a means of limiting opposition candidates to use the media houses to sale candidature. Media houses went into self-censorship mode for fear of restrictive measures including possibility of closure by the national media regulator, the Uganda Communication Commission. 

The secret known is that these restrictions targeted at the opposition disadvantaged them giving the NRM candidates an advantage point in terms of publicity and reachability of their manifesto to voters which clearly affected the electoral outcomes. 

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