By Anthony Kushaba
A Ugandan-German start-up agency has deployed drama to address the challenge of fake news and misleading content on the corona virus pandemic in Uganda.
East Africa Radio service-EARs is conducting the production and broadcasting of 18 drama series dubbed “The Pearl Drama” on over 21 radio stations across the country.
According to Derrick Senyonga, the drama project coordinator, the project is achieving its intended objectives.
“There was a lot of fake, unverified news which was going on in the community and we felt that through radio dramas, we would reach out to the community and help tackle he misinformation. I am glad to say that we are receiving positive feedback,” Senyonga said.
He said that they targeted radio because rural communities mainly rely on it as the main source of information which is usually presumed to be correct and often sets the agenda for discussion among the population.
“We are currently broadcasting episode 5, each week we broadcast a new episode tackling a particular issue in the communities in regards to COVID-19. The last episode will be running in the last week of January 2020. Our objective is to remind the community to observe existing standard operating procedures,” he added.
Senyonga says that to achieve the campaign objectives, the dramas are produced in 15 different languages of English, Luganda, Runyakitara, Rutooro, Luo, Lumasaaba, Lusoga, Alur, Madi, Kupsabiny, Ateso, Rufumbira and Lhukonzo among others.
Haggai Matsiko, a radio station host at South Rwenzori Messiah FM based in Kasese and one of those airing the drama appreciates the timely intervention of the drama.
“Kasese is a hot bed of break outs such as Ebola and Cholera among other diseases. The residents need constant cues to action in regards to any outbreak and with this pandemic, the dramas are helping bridge the information gap,” he said.
Senyonga said that the Pearl Dramas can be accessed on https://soundcloud.com/thepearldrama/. He also said that individuals also can access the dramas freely by dialling 161 on using Airtel.
“We value feedback and we reward people who participate in our weekly quiz with airtime worth UGX 20,000. You just send via Whatsapp “Hi” to +256 759 895135.
Douglas Mubiri Mutumba, the EARs Managing Director says that drama serve to inform and engage listeners on radio which has remained the dominant source of information despite the fact digital platforms are gaining popularity.
EARs, a radio station representation gives small and medium-sized radio stations access to lucrative advertising revenues. Currently, EARS represents 80 broadcasters in Uganda and has already generated advertising revenues of more than €100,000(approximately shs400 million) to local radio stations since its launch in March 2019 in the promotion of various government campaigns in education, nutrition and health.