By David Ssempijja and Edward Kalumba
Members of the Uganda Pay Television Association (UPTA) have asked the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to pass a directive restricting the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) from engaging in obligations that disenfranchise the nationals from accessing its services.
UPTA, a mouth piece of the local pay television industry was concerned following the events under which the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) directed some pay television channels to stop hosting UBC on their platforms during the world cup season.
According to the body chairperson Umar Lwasa, UCC must have taken note that most of the pay television subscribers bought decoders because they wanted to watch matches from their homes, given the terrorism threats Uganda faces, denying them the rights to the same means they will have no other option than crowding.
“Only two days after UCC ordered some Digital TV platforms to block the live digital free to air feed of world cup, due to the fact that most of the live matches are showing at midnight in Uganda, complains were raised due to the terrorism threat and security concern, we pray this unfair treatment in the television industry doesn’t occur again,” he said while addressing a press conference at Hotel Triangle on Wednesday.
UBC and UCC wrote to StarTimes instructing them to stop hosting UBC on their platform during world cup matches, leaving close to 180,000 StarTimes subscribers countrywide following the world cup matches only on radios after UBC instructed Star Times to block the airing of the matches.
However, StarTimes continued hosting UBC basing on the fact that UBC is a national broadcaster and a free- to- air channel, a case that culminated into UCC switching it off.
UBC managing director Paul Kihika argued that they acquired rights to broadcast the matches in Uganda only on the free-to-air platform, and not on a pay television platform.
However, it’s the same Kihika through UBC that signed a sh200m six-month deal in which UBC agreed to advertise several StarTimes products during the World Cup, but UBC has since removed all StarTimes adverts during world cup.
“UCC would have detected that it was wrong of UBC, a national broadcaster to enter into an obligation that bars other players from delivering information to the nationals, yet even President Yoweri Museveni had also paid $600,000 (sh1.5b) for broadcast rights of the matches for the good of his people who ended up missing out,” Ronald Kasaija, a UPTA member.
However, StarTimes spokesperson Christine Nagujja said that “good enough, the constitutional court ordered that UBC be switched back to our platform; but in the spirit of the progress of the broadcasting industry, the company will amicably seek a win-win position with UBC on the Sh200m they received and reconcile with UCC on regulatory matters”.
Speaking to New Vision in an interview, Martin Ocheng, the broadcasting expert working with Technoworks International advised to UCC to speed up the digital migration process, a move that will enable every television consumer have a decoder and a dish to receive clear signals because most the viewers that were missing out on the matches had signal problems while watching UBC via analogue.
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Pay television body wants UCC to direct UBC on accessibility