Ugandan journalist Moses Odokonyero is travelling the country, looking for creative youth radio projects and conducting a survey on the innovations and challenges for Ugandan media projects.
Looking for innovative youth media formats in Uganda on behalf of DW Akademie: Journalist Moses Odokonyero
Odokonyero began his assignment by conducting a survey of existing youth radio projects and spoke with a total of 11 organizations, radio stations and experts from the media sector. "The first step is to get a general impression of the organization, the programs it offers, the people in charge and the funding source," he says describing the approach. Odokonyero is an experienced journalist and knows what counts for well-managed media companies. He has worked as a radio editor for the Ugandan station Mega FM, as a public information officer at the UNHCR's operations for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Uganda, and as a journalism mentor for the BBC Media Trust. He has been working for DW Akademie for more than two years.
"The second step is to take a closer look," he continues. Odokonyero examines the organizations using a set of criteria developed together with DW Akademie. He looks at how their projects enable young people to have a say, and how the projects support development and change. He also looks more in depth at the organizations' structures and financing possibilities. An important criterium for choosing the projects for the survey is that the project ideas originated in Uganda and are being conducted by Ugandan organizations. This is to ensure that they closely reflect the target group and offer Ugandan solutions for Ugandan challenges.
What topics are missing?
The DW Akademie study showed that young Ugandans primarily want the media to provide them with entertainment, general knowledge and information. Young men have an increasing interest in sports and politics while young women would like content focusing on family and relationships, and on topics such as HIV and pregnancy.
The young women and men who took part in the survey all said that they badly needed information on the job market and employment promotion measures, since more than 80 per cent of Ugandan youths are unemployed. Many respondents, however, complained that the media were not responding to their information needs. They said that the media were often profit-driven and with little interest in producing educational content for their target group. The study also showed that young listeners rarely participated in call-in programs or initiatives such as listeners' clubs. Young people, it found, weren't interested in programs where they felt they were not being taken seriously and where they felt nothing would change even if they took part.
More interaction and involvement with the listeners
"I especially liked the approach of Community Empowerment, Education & Development(CEED), an NGO based in Gulu northern Uganda," Odokonyero says. "It has a Facebook page for its radio program 'Young Achievers Radio Programme'. Topics are posted online to generate discussion from young people," he continues. The Rwenzori Information Network Centres (RIC-NET) in Kasese district in western Uganda runs a youth radio program called "Let Your Voice Be Heard" which broadcasts on four radio stations. The radio program also has an online presence through the organization's website as well as Facebook and Twitter. "The cross-platform use of media both offline and online is good practice, which I think has great potential to increase youth participation in public affairs management in their communities and country," he says.
Odokonyero, however, also found that many organizations had problems finding longer-term financing for innovative youth programs, and was why many promising projects could not survive. "One of the organizations I spoke with produces podcasts on topics affecting young people. I liked the fact that they were training young people to become citizen journalists, but unfortunately the money ran out," he says. Many organizations, he adds, lack the technical know-how to create an adequately large online community, and are in need of support.
Odokonyero is 36 years old and says he'd like to take part in innovative youth programs. He'd be most interested in topics concerning youths in the media, he grins, but until then will continue to visit and survey additional media organizations. His next trip will be taking him to north-western Uganda.