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Journalist Fellows' Papers

A non-profit approach to market-driven journalism challenges in Uganda: A case study of Uganda Radio Network

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

James Tumusiime, the managing director and managing editor at the Observer newspaper in Uganda, has written a detailed case study of Uganda Radio Network, a non-profit media development programme bankrolled by European countries.

Here’s how James describes his research: "In Uganda, the media scene is vibrant, at least on the face of it, with dozens of newspapers and magazines, and hundreds of radio and television stations operating. However, underneath is an industry in peril as the difficult economic and political environment, coupled with the rise of social media, take their toll. This is particularly worrisome in a country like Uganda where, without sufficiently developed state institutions, people look to independent journalism to hold the government accountable and to fight corruption and other excesses of the powerful."

As the media industry ponders how to save journalism amid the disruption, non-profit journalism has gained traction, among other innovations. The thinking behind non-profits is rooted in the conviction that news is a public good which shouldn't be abandoned to market forces. There is a realisation that news is no longer a profitable commodity given that it is produced at high cost and yet in the digital age it is easily and cheaply accessible. In other words, for good journalism to survive, a new support system is imperative.

"Even though non-profits are yet to be commonplace in Uganda, Uganda Radio Network (URN) has been active now for eleven years. URN has demonstrated that shielded from the vagaries of the market, independent journalism can continue to serve the public good. However, like other non-profits worldwide, URN has to contend with concerns about the viability and sustainability of its approach."

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.