Private broadcasters to meet Minister over proposed deal
Posted Friday, March 22 2013 at 02:00
The new agreement was drafted without allowing the broadcasters a chance to present or negotiate their position on the agreement.
A group of privately owned radio stations under their umbrella body—the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) — has petitioned the Information Minister to intervene in a row between them and Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) over a newly drafted broadcasters’ agreement.
Since the liberalisation of airwaves in Uganda, there has been an influx in the number of privately owned radio stations, with the number shooting up to over 100.
In a letter addressed to Ms Mary Karooro Okurut, the minister of Information and National Guidance, NAB notes that UBC, through its managing director, drafted new and unrealistic broadcasters’ agreements and sent them out to different stations without allowing the broadcasters a chance to present or negotiate their position on the agreement.
Among the unrealistic clauses highlighted by the letter include UBC increasing monthly charges per radio station from between $500 (Shs1.3m) and $1,000 (Shs2.6m) to $1,500 (Shs3.9m), delivering a written notice to UBC before a broadcaster can access his/her antenna, compensation clause that in case of any equipment damages, the clause only benefits UBC not the broadcaster. They are also querying UBC taking on the role of inspecting and approving their equipment, among others.
NAB argues that the compensation clause should benefit both UBC and the affected broadcaster, not UBC alone as stated in the new agreement. “It is truism that agreements must be mutually agreed not imposed. In light of the above, we kindly request that you convene a meeting with ourselves to discuss the above matters with a view to having a fair and mutual agreement reached between our members and UBC,” reads part of the letter the NAB chairman, Mr Francis Babu, sent to Ms Karooro.
Far still, one of the NAB members who pleaded for anonymity because he is not the association spokesperson noted that unless the information minister resolves these disputes, members would shun using UBC properties and collectively fund the setup of privately shared masts.
Meeting slated for today
When contacted, Ms Karooro said she had received the letter and would meet with NAB executive and the other stakeholders on Friday (today). However, Mr Paul Kihika, the managing director of UBC, referred to the matter as a simple misunderstanding. He said: “I have not met any of those people but I received a copy of their letter. NAB is responding to mere proposals contained in a new draft of regulations that is not yet approved. It is as if they (NAB) are not willing to talk but are determined to oppose anything.”
Meanwhile, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of Uganda Communications Commission, also acknowledged receiving a copy of this letter. “As the regulator, I believe the right thing to do is to meet and listen to them. The letter was addressed to the minister and I believe she will call for a meeting,” Mr Mutabazi said.