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Vision Group gives Urban TV staff festive nightmares with massive layoff

Excepting sports presenters, Vision Group gives all Urban TV staff 24 hours to leave

NEWS | Vision Group has laid off all staff of its English television station, Urban TV, saving grace for only sports presenters.

Sources say the Industrial Area-based media empire has served all the presenters and reporters with letters indicating that they will be paid what is due to them within a week, but they must sign out within the next 24 hours.

It is said Vision Group has decided the Urban TV project is a loss and would rather have it lifted off the stage by bouncers and seen out since it is only bleeding the company.

Instead, bits of the Channel 43 television station will refocus its vision on by switching strategy to concentrate on entertainment and sports.

Those asked to leave before bouncers re-enact the Michael Ross lifting scenario include presenters of various programmes and their producers and social media handlers as well as several news reporters and editors.

Urban TV went on air in August 2011 on the back of a successful entry into the television industry by Bukedde TV, a Luganda station that gained a strong footing using yellow journalism under its Agataliko Nfufu news segment.

At the time of launch, Vision Group head of television Mark Walungama said Urban TV would target the urban populace’s English audience within the age bracket of 18-35 years.

Vision Group chief executive Robert Kabushenga added then that the decision to enter the English television market had been driven by the company’s vision to be a globally respected African media power house that advances society.

“We shall use the platform for stories that give Ugandans hope in their future and belief in themselves. We shall elevate Ugandan successes so that others may draw inspiration,” he said.

However, for seven years, the television station has been bleeding the company that sinks in resources to keep it on air without gaining much in terms of revenue.

The revamp and rebranding of NBS Television that came with entertainment segment with glossy banners and programming made things worse for the struggling Urban TV.

The few viewership the station commanded ended up with NBS Television. Matters were made worse when NTV Uganda launched its Luganda station, Spark TV, that proved too swanky to compete with in the entertainment milieu.

Although Spark TV broadcasts in vernacular as opposed to the English that Urban TV has been, its appeal to the youth proved costly at Industrial Area where Urban TV found itself losing the few remaining viewers who abandoned the orange banners for the flashy purple in Serena.

The price of growth

The launch of Urban TV highlighted the fast pedestal of growth that Robert Kabushenga had put Vision Group on since replacing William Pike as chief executive.

Kabushenga had fast tracked the digital age with the newspapers and magazines, ventured into electronic with radios, albeit with varying success.

He then hit it big with Bukedde TV that got the central region hooked and rival station struggling to up their Luganda segments to avoid losing out.

But Urban TV, like Vision Voice before it (it was rebranded into XFM), just couldn’t get up and running. English proved too much to package for a Kampala audience that appears to be forever weaned on Luganda.

Two years ago, the board of directors, using reports at hand, decided that Urban TV was a dead project with lights on. They asked for a post-mortem, meaning they considered Urban TV dead.

Last year, Big Eye, a local society website, reported that Kabushenga had conceded to the board that he would wind down Urban TV within two years at most.

And that time has come, only that it dropped at a more traumatizing moment of the demanding December.

 

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