The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) introduced a new term to many Ugandans, including journalists, a few weeks ago: “watershed hours.”
“Watershed” in broadcasting refers to the dividing line in time of day between family-oriented programming and when programming aimed at adult audiences is permitted. Many countries have different watershed hours. For example, it is 10 p.m. in Uganda, as we now know. In addition, many countries extend the watershed period until 5 a.m., while others may extend it until 5.30 a.m.
During a television talk show, one journalist referred to UCC’s mandate to enforce the broadcasting watershed by requiring television stations to schedule gossip programmes after 10 p.m. as an attempt to regulate how the media should arrange its “sitting room furniture”!
Despite some criticism of the UCC, many Ugandans (according to social media comments) are relieved that something has been done to curb irresponsible programming that exposed children to silly, vulgar jokes and gossip during prime evening hours.
The above mentioned brings us to the question, is there ‘watershed hours’ for radio? Ugandans believe that several radio morning shows on Kampala-based radio stations have presenters posing hypothetical relationship problems and urging callers to offer advice. Some of the issues are more general, while others are so sexual that if you have children in the car, you’ll be lucky if you can turn the knob before they hear something inappropriate.
Watershed is not applied to radio in the same way that it is on television. However, this does not grant radio stations the right to air adult content as and when they wish.
Judgement is still out on whether Ugandan radio stations should discuss relationships between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.