A new research has called for more public scrutiny of the work, services and products of telecom companies in Uganda in order to ensure Ugandans are getting value for their money.
The research tracked newspaper and online media coverage of telecoms including MTN Uganda, Airtel, Africell and Uganda Telecom from January to June 2018.
In a report done by researchers from Ultimate Multimedia Consult (UMC) said most of what Ugandans know about telecom companies is from advertising and promotions, with few if any news stories or investigations into the work and promotional offers of telecommunication companies.
“Telecom companies impact the lives of almost every Ugandan today, through their internet, calling, sms and mobile money services. You would expect that journalists and commenters would be producing news and analysis on the work of telecoms to help Ugandans make informed choices on what product, service or offer is most beneficial or valid. But this is not the case,” said Gerald Businge, the Team Leader at Ultimate Multimedia Consult.
Businge said in the six months, there were only 82 news stories and 13 analysis articles of the 898 stories published about telecoms by newspapers and online publications. He says the majority of the stories published were advertorials. “Even most news stories resulted from press releases,” he said.
The research warns that such Telecom advertising burnout of news and editorial coverage will continue to hamper better service delivery by telecom companies. “There are many concerns from the public about telecom services. From dropped calls, slow internet, undelivered sms, internet bundle charges to service offer prices. It would be good if journalists did more scrutiny and investigations into these issues. But the research has shown most of the coverage in newspapers is advertised messages and whatever the telecom company say is right,” says Derrick Senyonga who heads Research and Training at UMC.
This adds to widely held concerns that due to their huge advertising muscle, telecom companies have “bought off” any possible scrutiny of their services from any media house.
The research report also expressed concern that telecom companies were not doing enough to communicate to their service users using the traditional media, online publishers or even their own websites. “There are limited explanations or updates on their respective websites or social media pages about current services or the how of things,” Senyonga says, adding that members of the public need more than adverts to make informed choices on telecom services.
The report commended MTN Uganda for leading in communicating about its services and offers, both in newspapers, online publications and on their website. “Even in facebook and twitter, MTN has registered more routine posting and engagement. MTN was followed by Airtel, Africell and Uganda Telecom respectively in media coverage, posting and engagement.
You can download the full report Media coverage and communication of telecoms in Uganda.