Two government bodies that oversee the media sector in Rwanda have been allocated a combined Rwf 338.8m in the new budget to fulfill that mandate.
The agencies are the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and the Media High Council (MHC). Both institutions have much bigger annual budgets that include a specific allocation to “media development and capacity building”.
In the 2020-2021 national budget that begins operation this Wednesday July 1, which is when the financial year starts, RGB has received slightly above Rwf 185.5m planned for things like trainings and awards for the media.
As for the MHC, in the new financial year, it will have on its books Rwf 165.2m assigned as for media capacity building.
Both RGB and MHC are under the Ministry of Local Government, led by Prof Anastase Shyaka, with RGB in charge of media policy, while MHC handling capacity building.
With a media sector designed to disfavour independent media platforms, the state-funded Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) will be getting Rwf 2.69bn from state coffers for the coming year.
From this amount, some Rwf 1.4billion is for infrastructure development and acquiring new equipment. The other portion goes to salaries and other benefits for its staff.
For years, independent media groups have complained of the state-sanctioned dominance by the state broadcaster over the small advertising market. RBA gets taxpayers money, and also competes for advertisers with other media.
The advertising market is also heavily dominated by state agencies, and big private companies that are heavily attached to government and the ruling party. As a result, RBA and government-leaning media win contracts with so much ease, as heads of those advertising agencies pay millions for space to promote themselves.
In addition, RBA also controls the national broadcast towers, and private radio stations and TV stations pay RBA for space on its antennas.
In other words, private broadcasters compete with RBA for advertising revenue, but then have to also pay some of their income to RBA for hosting on its antennas.
From last year’s budget, RBA got Rwf 4.71bn from the taxpayer, with more than Rwf 3.4bln of it going to infrastructure and new equipment.
The state broadcaster includes Radio Rwanda, Magic FM, Rwanda Television, KC2 TV channel, and a host of community radio stations in upcountry regions.