The Committee on ICT and National Guidance has recommended the immediate release of Shs9 billion to Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) to enable it to implement free-to-air signal distribution across the country.
According to the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Moses Magogo, the funds were appropriated by Parliament for the installation of digital-to-home (DTH) systems, and renovation and equipping of the master control center in Kololo.
“This money has since not been released by the Finance Ministry and has resulted in Ugandans being subjected to an indirect television tax by private carriers for free-to-air channels,” Magogo said.
He said UBC intends to expand the digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting network by acquiring equipment for additional digital terrestrial transmission (DTT).
This was contained in the Committee report on ministerial policy statements and budget estimates for Financial Year 2023/2024 presented to the House on Wednesday, 19 April 2023.
Hon. Ferigo Kambale (NRM, Kasese Municipality) said rural television sites have been switched off from free-to-air signals for over six months.
“I request the Ministry of Finance to consider this so that our people can readily access the free-to-air television channels,” said Kambale.
The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, tasked the Ministry of Finance to present a status report on the release of the funds to SIGNET, a company working with UBC to spread digital television signals in Uganda.
He, however, disagreed with the committee proposal to write off UBC’s arrears to Uganda Revenue Authority, National Social Security Fund, UMEME, and National Water and Sewerage Corporation worth Shs87 billion.
Buhaguzi County MP, Hon. Francis Kazini said giving advertising revenue to UBC will enable it to generate revenue to execute key tasks.
“This Parliament can help UBC by making it compulsory for all government adverts to go through the national broadcaster so that it boosts itself,” Kazini said.
The Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Chris Baryomunsi, said UBC faces challenges with its resource envelope and appealed for the availability of resources to enable it, among others, to complete the free-to-air migration process.
“UBC inherited debts and liabilities from Uganda Television and Radio Uganda and a number of them have not been recovered. They need support to waive off some of the debts and get a resource injection,” said Baryomunsi.
He added that up-country television stations were switched off because UBC was cut off by the International Satellite Station.
Legislators agreed with the committee’s proposal to allocate Shs12 billion to the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-Uganda) for the enhancement of the National Data Centre.
Magogo said the provision of the funding will enable the National Data Centre and Disaster Recovery Site to host more government applications and eliminate duplication and wastage of resources.