The forum for media owners in the country has hired a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on a the possibility to establish a media credit and saving cooperative, to be known as the ‘Media SACCO.’
The initiative aims at cushioning media practitioners in the country against the persistent shortage of funds that has dogged the industry for years.
Charles Kakooza Nkuriza, the chairperson of media owners’ forum in Rwanda, said this during a policy dialogue that brought together media managers with Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), yesterday.
The dialogue aimed at highlighting the impact of media reforms, issues and challenges that need to be addressed in the media sector, while sharing ideas on possible solutions.
Nkuriza, the proprietor of Radio and TV 1, said various steps have been taken in the media sector in terms of freedom to establish media houses but there are still serious challenges, mainly hinged on financial constraints.
He said that due to such constraints, some media houses fail to pay salaries of their employees, while others have closed doors.
“That is why we want to establish a Media SACCO that can support the sector. Media houses and individual journalists can acquire shares and then get credit at low interest rate so that they survive when constrained.
“We have a consultant who is carrying out the study, looking at how much contribution members need to make, responsibilities and other technicalities,” he said.
The study, he said, will be completed within five months.
Meanwhile, the owners, especially broadcasters, have petitioned Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (RURA) to revise signal hosting prices, saying the prices do not match with their income.
“We find it difficult to offset the different expenses like salaries, taxes on top of the prohibitive signal or frequency hosting fees. RURA charges Rwf120m per year while Rwanda Broadcasting Agency reduced the amount for its masts to Rwf47m which is still too much,” he said.
Arthur Asiimwe, the Director General of RBA, confirmed that even with the reduced charges, most of television stations still cannot afford to pay.
He said there can be talks to reduce further to a price that is affordable for all.
Media owners also complained about religious and community media outlets that are competing on the market, saying they should stop commercial activities.
Meanwhile, Gaspard Safari, the Deputy Managing Director of Rwanda Printing and Publishing Company that runs Imvaho Nshya, a local vernacular newspaper, said that print media houses are also constrained as most newspapers printed at their press struggle to pay printing costs.
“Some issue us cheques but when you get to the bank you find no money on their accounts. Most of them have debts with us,’’ he said.
What RGB says
Prof Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, welcomed the idea of the savings cooperative.
“A Media SACCO can attract more resources because it is business-oriented. Government and other stakeholders can even find it easy to chip in. It is something that the media can build on but it also needs good management and I really encourage it,” he said.
It is also better, he added, that some media houses merge and make one bigger company instead of having many weak media houses compete on the same market.
He agreed with the need for affordable signal distribution costs, and encouraged further discussion on the matter.
“We have to continue discussing fair competition in terms of markets. If it is about laws and regulations, we review them,” he added.
Shyaka also urged journalists to embrace professionalism.