Rights claimants, broadcasters headed for court confrontation

The fight over the English Premier League broadcast rights is raging. PHOTO/INTERNET 

What you need to know:

Following the publication of the above notice, Uganda Media Owners Association (Umoa) intervened and engaged further with Nab and its members (radio stations), plus DSL hoping for some breakthrough.

The stalemate between Discovery Sports Limited (DSL) and National Association of Broadcasters (Nab) over English Premier League (EPL) audio broadcast rights looks headed for a court showdown. 

DSL, a Ugandan registered company, insist they own exclusive rights for audio broadcast of EPL matches and other related properties while local radio stations, under Nab, opine otherwise.

The two bodies have been in a tag of war since last August when DSL first issued a notice of rights enforcement but now seem resigned to the matter being settled in court. 

"As of yesterday (Wednesday, January 25), it was very likely that the matter is going to end up in court for proper interpretation," admitted Obadiah Otim, the Nab legal counsel.

His opposite number at DSL, Timothy Kajja, also seems resigned to fate.

"Most likely," he admitted on the court's likelihood, "personally, I would always choose otherwise.

"But that’s not how entities are run. As a company, we are more than ready (for court). 

"If it were not for the Umoa (Uganda Media Owners Association) intervention, we would be currently in court."


DSL first published a notice last August asking telecommunication companies, betting houses and radio stations among others to comply by getting licensed to broadcast EPL matches or risk punitive action against them. 

Nab engaged them and asked DSL to first provide proof that they actually owned exclusive rights to audio broadcast of EPL matches.

Then on October 6 last year, UK broadcasters talkSPORT - the Licensee of worldwide audio rights of the Premier League -  confirmed to Nab they had sub-licensed DSL in Uganda.

"We have been asked to confirm that Discovery Sports Limited is authorised to exploit live audio rights in respect of the Premier League competition during the 2022/23 season in respect of the territory of Uganda, " reads the letter.

"Accordingly (we) hereby confirm (that) talkSPORT has exclusively sub-licensed the Live Audio Rights in the Territory to Discovery Sports Limited, this includes the ability to use the Premier League logos and club logos to promote the content."

The letter, which this newspaper has in copy, was signed off by William Morley, head of audio partnerships at talkSPORT.

Nab's Otim also confirmed receipt: "DSL did share the Agreements alluding to the rights in respect to the subject matter," he told the Daily Monitor.

Disagreement over interpretation

"However, there is a disagreement as to the interpretation of the same."

Armed with the letter from talkSPORT, DSL published another notice last December.

"Having given all concerned stakeholders ample notice and a transition period of over 90 days," read the DSL notice.

"On the 26th of December, 2022 Discovery Sport Limited (DSL) will start enforcing its exclusively held rights in the territory of Uganda over the following Premier League Intellectual Property and Broadcast Rights (IPRs);

"Radio/Audio broadcasts of the Premier League" and 'use of the Premier League logo, club names, and logos.

"All entities exploiting or using the above IPRs in Uganda with the exception of BBC Radio, and Betting Houses directly sponsoring a Premier League club or having an active contract with Genius Sports Limited are encouraged to use this World Cup period to acquire sublicenses from DSL before the Premier League resumes."

Umoa intervention

Following the publication of the above notice, Uganda Media Owners Association (Umoa) intervened and engaged further with Nab and its members (radio stations), plus DSL hoping for some breakthrough.

But after consulting their members, both Nab and DSL seem to see this only ending in court for better interpretation. 

DSL's Kajja says they had started the enforcement process on 27th of last December but "then got divergent reactions from the broadcasters.

"Some were willing, others not but we were enforcing blanketly.

"After a series of calls, we were requested to first halt the enforcement and talk to Umoa, which we did."

Kajja added: They asked for 45 days, (from 9th Jan).

"I took the feedback to the decision makers at DSL.

"But in Feb, enforcement will be imminent," assured Kajja, "We have all documents as requested (addendum, letters, meetings to break it down) - all in good faith.

"Once we conclude dealing with those willing to handle it diplomatically, (probably at the end of Jan), we will be back on the enforcement route."

If enforcement takes effect, radio stations that broadcast these EPL matches will be required to pay a given fee for a licence, with punitive measures such as fines for those that won't.

Radio stations unrelenting 

Speaking to Daily Monitor earlier, Abbey Mukiibi, the programs manager at Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) - one of the popular stations that has been broadcasting EPL matches for years, was adamant they had no business with DSL.

"As far as I’m concerned," he said, "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.”