Media Operators criticize Regulatory bill

The media owners and operators have criticized the Uganda communications bill 2012. Under their Umbrella organization National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the operators want major changes in the bill before it is enacted into law.
Media owners under the National Association of Broadcasters-NAB have criticized the Uganda communications bill 2012 and demanded for major changes before it is enacted into law. Francis Babu, the chairperson of NAB observes that the proposed law lump the telecommunication and broadcast sectors together yet are different in all aspects.

 He says it is necessary to make clear difference of the two in the law.

Babu also states that without proper definitions in the law there are chances of misinterpreting the law. For instance, meaning of Broadcaster is defined to include composer, packager of broadcast material. This according to Babu would mean the liability would fall on the third parties usually involved in broadcasting. The broadcasters believe the bill attempts to usurp powers of the Media Council and the Minister in charge of Information by giving the power to amend the professional code of ethics. They argue that this would lead to conflict between two government bodies.

The bill also gives the power to confiscate any apparatus which is possessed; installed connected or operated unlawfully. The broadcasters believe that this provision is not only harsh but also contravenes the constitution which guarantees protection from arbitral deprivation of property. Robert Kabushenga, CEO Vision Group notes that the entire bill should be taken back to the ICT ministry for review.

He says the bill was brought to parliament without the consultation of the parties involved. He mainly objects to the cross media ownership that the bill seeks to control. To him this provision was picked from South Africa in the apartheid era. Kabushenga notes says the bill puts a lot of work on parliament to sift while a lot of the work can be cut out at the ministry level. Paul Kihika, the Managing Director UBC notes that funding for the National Broadcaster should come directly from government. He says government subsidies to the national public broadcaster are inevitable and should not be reduced because the services are free.

The Bill seeks to regulate broadcasting, telecommunication and postal service providers through a new body-the Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority. It also seeks to empower government to control operations of broadcasters and reintroduce the law on false news, struck out by the Supreme Court. The bill is before the ICT committee for further scrutiny before it is passed into law.