Broadcasters, DSL for showdown talks

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There is a broadcast dispute between radio stations that do commentary on the EPL and Discovery Sports Limited (DSL), a new company claiming to have acquired intellectual property rights of the English Premier League (EPL) in Uganda. PHOTO/COURTESY 


What you need to know:

Before the notice that made rounds in different media this week, both Nab and its members did not know anything about the new company asserting to owning radio broadcast rights to the English Premier League, and say it is up to Discovery Sports Limited to explain themselves.

KAMPALA. The National Association of Broadcasters (Nab) will on Monday meet with Discovery Sports Limited (DSL), a new company claiming to have acquired intellectual property rights of the English Premier League (EPL) in Uganda, to discuss the matter further.

DSL this week issued multiple notices in the press to radio stations, betting houses and sponsors of radio football broadcasts telling them to stop broadcasting of EPL matches starting from August 29 unless they have clearance from the said company.

Until then, neither Nab nor its members had an idea about DSL. “To be honest,” Obadia Ismail Otim, the Nab legal counsel, told Daily Monitor, “I didn’t know about them.

“But we have spoken to their legal representative and have agreed to a meeting with our members and them on Monday.

“As of now, we have told our members to disregard any notice stopping them from doing their work until we meet with these people.

“They (DSL) say they have a licence agreement with talkSPORT in the UK, we shall seek to have a look at that, its legality, its lawfulness and then we see a way forward.”

UK radio, talkSPORT, is the licensee of an exclusive package of international audio broadcasting rights of the EPL.


Public notice for transparency

According to Timothy Kajja, the DSL legal counsel, they signed off their licence agreement with talkSPORT on August 6 this year. 

Asked why they issued August 29 as the deadline all radio stations with no agreement with SDL should stop any broadcasts of Premier League games, Kajja expounded.

“The fact that we signed off our agreement with our licensee on August 6 and only issued notices this week shows you we have been doing some ground work to allow for a smooth transition,” Kajja told the Daily Monitor.

DSL had notified the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board before issuing the notices in the press.

“Also, we knew game week five was mid this week and wanted those that want to comply immediately to reach out to us. 

“By notifying the wider public first we wanted to ensure transparency and also to allow for a transitional period. We chose the date of halting any unauthorised broadcasts of August 29 but we will not go with it.  

“I have had a discussion with the Nab lawyer and we have agreed to meet with them on Monday for a way forward.”

Asked to provide proof of the agreement between DSL and talkSPORT, Kajja cited confidentiality issues, saying that “at a meeting with regulators and Nab, a version of the agreement will be made available to them.”


Business as usual

Meanwhile, radio stations that do commentary on the EPL continued unperturbed on match day five on Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday. 

Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) is one of them. “I don’t know anything about them (DSL),” CBS Programs Manager Abbey Mukiibi told Daily Monitor, “As far as I’m concerned, we are continuing with our broadcasts. 

“We don’t use a live feed from them or the stadium. We don’t rebroadcast. We just do it our way. I’m going on with the broadcast. Nothing is stopping.”

Mukiibi cited a case years back in which Radio One, which had a licence agreement with the BBC Radio 5 Live, challenged CBS and Super FM among others for doing commentary on EPL games yet they had no rights.

“We won that case because we don’t carry live feed from them. We have our ways in which we do it and we don’t infringe on their rights.”

Kajja admits the above happened, and says the same happened between BBC 5 Live and talkSPORT.


Legal status of DSL

“At the time,” explained Kajja, “operators didn’t know how to structure the agreements. That was since sorted. For example, under our agreement with our licensee, we have rights to content, as well as broadcast of games over radio. Those are the rights we have.

“In the cases cited above, operators lost out because these radios argued that they didn't use operators' live feeds. The source is not the issue. The issue is you are broadcasting a product whose rights my licensee owns, and doing so through radio.”

The status of DSL has also been questioned. According to records at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Discovery Sports Limited (DSL) was first registered as a private company limited by shares on March 6, 2020 under R2000003384621 and dissolved on April 4, 2020.

It was again registered on June 2, 2022 under R80020003661904. Asked why the interesting sequence, Kajja said it was a requirement of the broadcast rights licensee.

“It is not that there was anything wrong with the company,” argued the lawyer, “it was just a requirement of our licensee because they wanted to do business with a new company, a new slate.” We have not been able to independently verify the claim.

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