The new framework for license, fees and fines for broadcasters including pay television operators was publicized in the Uganda Government Gazette late 2017, contrary to claims the arrangement was unknown to the industry.
The digital TV companies including Azam TV, DSTV, Gotv, Zuku, StarTimes and KWESE TV in a joint statement released on Monday evening accused the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) of astronomically increasing the annual licensing fee for each operator by a staggering 2,400 percent from Shs 22m to Shs 550m.
They further said the fees structure shocked them as they were still negotiating with UCC on the matter.
However, in a general notice number 977 of 2017in the Gazette, UCC announced the approval of license categories, license fees, spectrum charges and fines.
For example, the application fees for commercial radios stand at Shs 9m, according to the Gazette – a periodical publication authorised to publish public or legal notices.
The notices within the Gazette, whether by the government or a private party, are considered sufficient to comply with legal requirements for public notice
Online radio stations are charged Shs 100,000 as license fees per year while community radios are required to pay Shs 2,000,000 for the same.
Content service providers (pay TV – national single stream) were required to pay the initial entry fee of $27,000 and annual fees of $20,300.
This is almost the same charge for local television stations.
The online data communication services (publishing) companies are mandated to pay $20 each.
UCC Executive Director Eng Godfrey Mutabazi said “30 local television stations and over 250 radio stations have complied with the new licensing framework.”
He wondered: “We don’t understand why a few foreign companies don’t want to comply as they do in the neighboring countries.”
Pay TV operators this week threatened they “will have no choice but to pass on these increased fees to subscribers if we are to survive, which we are reluctant to do as it would make Pay TV services unaffordable, and place an additional burden on consumers.”
Mutabazi challenged the TV operators to deny having received information about the fees schedule as early as last year.
“Isn’t this dishonesty?” said Mutabazi in an interview with ChimpReports on Wednesday, adding, “The Gazette which contains the schedule of fees is available. Instead of saying they will increase the subscription rates, they should tell us why don’t want to comply just like the rest of the other players in the industry.”
In their statement, the TV operators said they were still engaging UCC on developing a new licensing framework that is “enabling” and “appropriate.”
The UCC boss, who appeared to be warning the operators against intimidating the public, said they “don’t describe their own fees,” emphasizing, “They must work together with the regulator.”