By Chris Kiwawulo
Over 180,000 clients who subscribe to Star Times digital television are to miss the rest of the world cup games after Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) switched off the pay television over rights.
This was after UCC disconnected Star Times on Wednesday after the pay television had refused to heed to the regulatory body’s directives.
UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi on June 16, 2014, also wrote to Star Times Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Chen, directing to stop carrying the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) channel on their platform, saying they did not have rights to broadcast the world cup.
“It is noted that Star Times is advertising and broadcasting the FIFA world cup in Brazil on the UBC channel available on your platform. Although UBC was granted the rights to broadcast the world cup by AUB, these were applicable only on the free-to-air platform and therefore your continued airing of the same contravenes the agreement to secure those rights between UBC and AUB, leaving UBC in violation of the agreement,” Mutabazi wrote.
Mutabazi directed Star Times to immediately halt the production, placement and airing of any advertisements and broadcast of world cup matches on their network via the UBC channel, and warned that the pay television faced legal action in case they failed to heed to the directive.
Mutabazi on Thursday said they disconnected Star Times for the whole of Wednesday for refusing to heed to his directive. “We warned them to stop carrying the UBC channel during world cup but they refused, so, we disconnected them. But they have now repented their sins and they should be back on air,” he said.
However, Mutabazi said they later agreed with Star Times to have the UBC channel removed from their platform during world cup games. “If they leave it on, we shall disconnect them again.”
Star Times on Thursday sent out short messages to its clients reading; “Star Times wishes to inform you that our signals are temporarily off due to some technical problems, it will be back soon. Sorry for the inconviniences. Thank you.”
The pay television spokesperson Christine Nagujja admitted that they had been disconnected, but she was quick to add that they had been reconnected. “We had some issues including airing of world cup via UBC on our platform but we have resolved them and we are back on air,” she stated.
President Yoweri Museveni paid $600,000 (sh1.5b) for broadcast rights of the Brazil 2014 World Cup on UBC from the African Union of Broadcasting/Federation of International Football Associations (AUB/FIFA).
Prior to the UCC warning, On June 12, 2014, UBC managing director Paul Kihika wrote to Star Times instructing them to temporarily block the UBC live feed on the Star Times network whenever the FIFA World Cup games are airing.
Before Kihika’s warning, AUB had on May 14, 2014 raised a red flag over Star Times’ use of the UBC platform to advertise the sale of their digital decoders.
However, Star Times insisted that they had not breached any regulations or agreement and they continued to broadcast the world cup matches via UBC. Nagujja had said they were not airing world cup but only using decoders to pick the free-to-air UBC channel which broadcasts the matches.