12 October 2012

Uganda: UBC Sues UCC Over Digital Migration

State broadcaster Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) has sued the regulator of the communications sector Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) over alleged breach of contract.

In the suit filed on October 4 at the High Court in Kampala, UBC accuses UCC of terminating a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed this year on May 29. The MoU was terminated this year on August 21. According to the Digital Migration Policy for Uganda 2011, UBC was appointed sole signal provider for a five-year period.

"In violation of the spirit of the MoU, the defendant(UCC) run adverts in the print media for purchase of equipment without consulting the plaintiff(UCC), yet the plaintiff was the ultimate owner of the equipment," the plaint states.

Through Rwaganika and Company Advocates, UBC contends that the MoU stated that the broadcaster was tasked with installing equipment for the Digital Terrestrial Television Project for Greater Kampala. This was in line with the transition from analogue broadcasting format.

Additionally, UBC contends that UCC was to provide funding for the project, and that the two entities were to work jointly and ensure that the supplier responds to the project proposal requirements, and to procure the turnkey solution.

The broadcaster wants UCC permanently restrained, and is demanding damages plus costs of the suit. The amount of money demanded in damages is however not specified.

According to court documents, prior to the MoU and with full knowledge of UCC, UBC as the signal distributor had already started building a new countrywide coverage digital television terrestrial distribution network. Kololo was the nucleus for transmission with radius coverage of 80 kilometres.

UBC asserts that UCC violated the MoU by appointing a consultant, and licenced other signalers without consulting its partner (UBC). The broadcaster alleges that the regulator is planning to hijack its mandate by building a new transmission site at Migadde located 25 kilometres north of Kampala.

"The licencing by the defendant of other signal distributors will contradict the Digital Migration Policy 2011 that gave the plaintiff exclusive right to provide signal distribution for five years," UBC asserts.

The broadcaster is seeking a court declaration that UCC's conduct is illegal, and that the termination of the MoU was in bad faith. UBC also wants court to declare that UCC's actions will lead to conflict of interest, as it will cease being a regulator and turn into a competitor.

The case file has been allocated to Justice Vincent Zehurikize. UCC is yet to respond to the allegations. A hearing date is yet to be fixed.

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