Putting a finger to sex talk on Kampala radios

Friday December 04 2020

Mr Odoobo C. Bichachi

On Wednesday morning, a KFM radio listener shared with me a tweet about the morning talk-show with the following comment: “These guys [presenters] are crazy! This is a morning time show with parents driving their kids to school as they go to work. How do parents listen to such in the presence of their kids?”

The tweet read hence: “So this is the hashtag to use #BoyzToMen …we are talking the female orgasm. Is your man responsible for making you orgasm? #DmightyBreakfast”. Attached onto the tweet was a graphic with a photo of a presenter and the following information: “80 per cent of women do not experience orgasms? Are the men responsible? #BoyzToMen on DmightyBreakfast every Wednesday 9-10am. Listen Live – radio.co.ug/KFM”.

I shared this feedback with the KFM radio team to enable me get an appropriate response to relay to the listener and for the benefit of others that may be thinking like him. KFM head of radio informed me that this was mainly a podcast, part of which is aired live on radio, and that the station was very careful with its handling of adult content and the content was within limits. That is well.

For the complainant, however, I believe the issue was less about the nitty-gritty of female (or even male) orgasm, but more about whether such a discussion of adult issues should be taking place on a mass radio forum in prime morning at a time when children are “awake” and in the same space with adults whether at home, on the road, in the garden, etc?

Only a month or so ago, this column raised the uncomfortable issue of the preponderance of sex and relationships talk on Uganda’s English radio programming (see “Ugandans listen to radio, but what are they hearing?” Daily Monitor, October 16).

Listeners are literally fed on sex talk in the morning, afternoon, evening and through the night. Thus what the loud speakers blast out every day to the “unwashed” in the slum alleys or on trucks moving through trading centres about Kukumanga (alleged sex stimulant), hips, breasts and sexual organ enlargement, etc, is what is delivered in filtered stereo to the higher end on corporate radio frequencies in sassy voices of presenters.


So to be fair to KFM, it is not alone in this.

That said, I sought the perspective of eminent radio critics, Timothy Kalyegira and Joel Isabirye, to help us understand where it is all coming from. This is what Kalyegira said: “The mindset of gossip and sexual undertone on our radio stations, whatever time of the day, goes back to the thinking of the mid-1990s when private radio had just started; that you needed an element of shock or scandal to hook listeners.”

Indeed, Peter Ssematimba’s “Capital Doctor” programme (8pm to 10pm) that regularly featured Dr Donah Kabatesi, perhaps opened the door for explicit content on our airwaves. However, to its credit, it was explicit from a medical perspective. Today, it is more or less from an ecstasy perspective.

Isabirye on the other hand believes “this type of content is being driven by what radio stations think youthful audiences like and are the main audience. Content research shows that sex and relationships are the key talk content drivers for audiences aged 30 and below. This is followed by entertainment (particularly gossip about celebrities). So normally, some stations will do such research. But also many stations simply duplicate what others do. If they feel it does appeal.”

Just what does the law say about broadcasting adult content? According to Abdusalam Waiswa, who heads the Legal and Compliance Department of the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), no adult content should be aired during the “watershed period,” which is the time between 5am and 10pm.

Even then, says Isabirye, “there has been no conscious effort to manage adult content on commercial radio in Uganda. If it was there, there would be parental advisory comment or intros that highlighted the explicit nature of the content, like it is with political content in some programmes. I have not heard any station make effort to notify or qualify its incoming content as such. That is something we can think about.”

This conversation continues next week.

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