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UBC to be switched off over Ugx3.7bn debt

According to Intelsat, the satellite service provider, UBC’s arrears have accumulated for more than a year now and therefore, they should be cleared before the said date or else, services will be terminated effective October 1st, 2022.

KAMPALA, UGANDA; National Broadcaster (UBC – Uganda Broadcasting Corporation) is likely to be switched off from its satellite service if it does not clear an outstanding $988,225 (Sh3.7bn) in arrears by next Friday (September 30).

According to Intelsat, the satellite service provider, UBC’s arrears have accumulated for more than a year now and therefore, they should be cleared before the said date or else, services will be terminated effective October 1st, 2022.

The Intelsat director of finance, Mr Hervy Mrjuna, wrote the letter to State Minister of ICT Godfrey Kabbyanga.

“We certainly would like to avoid such measures and would regret having to take actions that may result in termination of your services. We would also like you to consider opening a dialogue with us to consider governmental needs regarding connectivity requirements in Uganda,” Mr. Mrjuna’s letter reads in part.

The move if implemented by the beginning of next month will see over 30 television channels and free-to-air decoders that are connected to UBC’s infrastructure affected in transmission of their services.

Earlier, on August 23, Mr Kabbyanga had written to Intelsat asking them not to suspend the services on grounds that the government is in a critical time of popularising mass vaccination against coronavirus and the parish development model.

“The Ministry commits that satellite service provision to UBC be maintained, especially during this critical time that the government is popularising the mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19 and the parish development model,” Mr Kabbyanga said, adding that the termination of service would deprive the national broadcaster from communicating government programmes and the National Resistance Movement (the ruling party) manifesto.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Kabbyanga confirmed writing to the Satellite provider, although he didnot have an update on whether the UBC management had cleared its arrears. He urged us to talk to UBC management about the matter.

Mr. Winston Agaba, the Managing director of UBC confirmed that they have not cleared the debt, adding that they were working out a plan with the Ministry of Finance to sort out the problem.

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“We are engaging the satellite service provider,” Mr Agaba said, adding that the funds they got for the first quarter of this financial year didn’t cater for satellite services after government this year made budget cut budgets for all government agencies due to financial constraints.

Mr Agaba said if Intelsat suspends the transmission, it will cause them litigation challenges since they have contractual obligations with more than 30 television stations.

“Switching off the satellite means that free-to-air services will go off air,” he said.

Mr. Jim Mugunga, the spokesman of the Ministry of Finance, when contacted over the release of the funds said the UBC management should have a conversation with the stakeholders before crisis strikes.

“The UBC should be advised to engage their service provider with proof of funds and seek a repayment plan when the releases will be made for instance in the second quarter,” Mr Mugunga said.

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He said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, has an open-door policy and should be used by UBC management to engage him to solve the crisis.

Additional Reporting by ABagala @DailyMonitor

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