UCC, pay TVs row over license fees

An announcement by Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) threatening to switch off pay television service providers over non-payment of operational license fees elicited an angry response from the market players.

In an advert placed in the government owned New Vision newspaper on April 23, UCC gave the pay TV service providers up to April 30 to renew their operational licenses under the new television licensing framework or risk being switched off.

It said it would begin “vigorous enforcement action” against all pay television providers that will continue broadcasting without complying with the law and the commission’s directive.

“Non-compliant pay TV service providers are informed that they will face enclosure of broadcasting facilities as well as prosecution for illegal broadcasting,” the UCC statement partly reads.

The new licensing framework involves applying for new licenses or modification of the existing licenses and accordingly align their operation to the new licensing regime.

The regulator named MultiChoice Uganda (DSTV), GOTV Uganda Limited , Star DTV(U) Co Limited (Star Times), Azam Media Uganda Limited, Wananchi Group (U) Limited (Zuku TV) and Kwese support services Ltd (Kwese Pay TV) as defaulters.

“The general public is advised not to deal with non- compliant Pay TV broadcasting service providers to avoid inconveniences that may arise out of enforcement measures against their service providers,” the statement by UCC further stated.

EXORBITANT

In a joint statement, the pay TV service operators expressed shock that UCC came up with the statement in the midst of their negotiations for a consumer-investor-friendly licensing that would make pay TV service more affordable.

“We are therefore surprised that UCC, in the midst of our engagements and after having licensed each of the Uganda pay TV operators under the prior licensing framework allege that all the pay TV service operators are non-compliant,” the joint statement by the pay TV service operators reads in part.

According to the statement, UCC has increased the pay TV service operator license fees by nearly 2400% from Shs 22m to $150,000 (Shs 555m) a year.

This is in addition to a 2% levy on the operators’ gross annual revenue plus other regulatory fees.
The pay TV service operators called the new fees exorbitant, and warned that they will have no option but to pass on the increased fees to subscribers for them to remain in business.

But this may work against them since it will make the service less affordable and thus decrease the number of subscribers.