Ugandan MPs to review UBC TV digital monopoly policy

Ugandan MPs are scheduled to meet later this year to review the contract awarded to Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), the national broadcaster, to spearhead the analogue to digital TV migration.

Minister for Information and Communication (ICT) Nyambo Tembo said the ICT parliamentary committee supports the policy review exercise and that allowing UBC as the only signal distributor may jeopardise the process although only one more company, as a UBC competitor, is needed.
According to the Uganda’s communications ministry, the government has already allocated US$2.5 million to UBC from Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF) and hopes to get support from other interested development sectors.
Tembo stated that the process will be ‘open’ so that the fittest firm can be awarded the tender for relaying the signals.
In April last year, Ugandan legislatures drafted a policy framework to ensure all the international standard set by ITU are adhered to in the processes of providing a road map toward adoption of digital broadcasting.
The cabinet later settled on UBC to facilitate the signal transmission process. The national broadcaster was later given a 5-year period to offer the services, a move criticised by competitors as monopoly act.

National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) officials also criticsed the move saying, making UBC as a sole signal distributor would lead to monopoly, and, as a result, affect the quality of production by hindering innovation and creativity as it would limit investors from plunging into the business arena.
The public has since expressed their disappointments prompting the MPs to review the process, Tembo said.
NAB doubts UBC’s technical capacity of steering the process to digital era as the only signal distributor.
“We fear that UBC may disappoint the nation in carrying out the process. Many of the officials in the company have criminal records and police are looking for them.They don’t have the morals of carrying out the process,” NBA chairman Francis Babu, during a meeting with officials from the ICT ministry.
Earlier on, UBC engaged in a US$ 74 million loan deal with the Export & Import (EXIM) Bank of China, which was however stopped by the government over allegations of procurement flaws and over-pricing of the funds.
UBC aimed to channel the money toward analogue to digital TV migration project as well as purchase latest TV studio equipment.

Established in 2004 through a partnership of Uganda Television (UTV) and Radio Uganda (RA), UBC serves as Uganda’s public broadcaster managing the UBC TV channel and five radio stations including Magic, Star, Blue, Red and Butebo fm.

As the 2015 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline for switch off to digital TV draws closer, East African countries are struggling to beat the deadline. Kenya plans to complete the digitisation process later this year. If the deal goes through, Kenya will be the first country in Africa to migrate to digital TV signal.

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