With Uganda’s cutthroat radio competition, it’s no longer about music and more music; listeners want something that intertwines information, education and entertainment in a novel way, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza
In one of the episodes I listened to, a boy wanted out of a relationship with a sugar mummy but could not since she was paying his school fees. Plus he needed her money to look after his sick mother. It was a classic case of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The episode was from a 30-minute radio serial drama, Rock Point 256, that hit the airwaves in August 2005. The number of radio stations it airs on have since gone up to 22 from 16, including 93.3 Kfm.
Recorded in English, Luganda, Luo, Ateso and Runyakitara, the action-packed series try to paint contrasting portraits of Uganda – the country as it is, the country we all desire; a Uganda devoid of HIV/Aids, domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, alcohol/drug abuse and related ills.
Far from being just emotionally involving, the series also explore familial relations and friendships, transactional sex – popularly known as “something for something love”, sports and life skills while employing a fast-paced approach made the series more appealing with humour, music and sound effects.
The serial’s slogan, “Discover the rock in you” is an appeal to the youth that it seeks to influence positively, to invoke their inner strength while grappling with the challenges of life. Parents and policy makers have a lot to glean from the storylines although the drama targets young people between 13-25 years.
According to a 2007 media survey conducted by The Steadman Group, the Series have reached up to 50 per cent of its target audience and are causing behavioural change, especially among rural families.
|Pablo (in a suit) with his cast|
In 2007, the drama won the AfriComNet Award for Excellence in HIV and Aids Communication in the Best Multi-Channel Communication category. In 2010 it was voted the best radio programme by the New Vision readers and in 2011 won the Africa Edutainment Award in the Fighting against HIV category. And just last week, on May 18, Rock Point 256 outstripped several companies, organisations and individuals to win the Local Content Award in the UCC-organised Annual Communications Innovation Awards (ACIA 2012).
“The UCC award means a lot because it came at a time when the mother project Young Empowered And Healthy (Y.E.A.H) had just closed and the Drama was looking for sustenance from commercial sponsors,” says Tony Mushoborozi, the Script Editor. “We hope that this milestone will open that door for us.”
Tony and Pablo should have nothing to fear. With Uganda’s cutthroat radio competition, it’s no longer about music and more music; listeners want something that intertwines information, education and entertainment in a novel way, thus the station that uses radio drama to confront the complex and controversial political and social issues of the day could have an advantage over its competitors. It would also mean more jobs for script writers, actors and producers since Rock Point 256 alone employs 200 actors.
“Radio drama, though a complex and sophisticated art form, is capable of so much and is therefore worthy of a lifelong pursuit,” says Pablo. “I believe that there’s still great radio drama yet to be made by talented people with a deep love and understanding of the medium.”
--Saturday Monitor, May 26, 2012