Ugandans forced to embrace digital migration

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda

Ugandans have been forced to embrace digital migration after a court in Kampala overturned an earlier interim order that had barred Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) from migrating the country to digital television platforms.

As the country arrived at the deadline set by the national regulatory authority UCC, all analogue signals were to be switched off. However, UCC implemented the migration in phases with the first phase covering a 60 kilometer radius within the Kampala metropolis. The switchover started on June 15 ahead of the June 17 global deadline sending the affected viewers in panic mode as most locals were not prepared for the digital switchover. As expected the switchover was followed with outrage and soon the war was brought to the attention of the court.

On 17th June Enoth Mugabi a city lawyer filed an application objecting the hastened switchover. “I decided to go to court after I was aggrieved by UCC’s move to migrate from the old analogue way of signal transmission to digital which demanded me to part with money for subscription in order to watch TV channels,” noted Mugabi.

The Magistrates Court in Mengo then issued an interim Order restraining UCC “from interfering with the broadcasters’ transmission of analogue TV signals …pending determination" The order was sought by Enoth Mugabi and issued by His Worship Kagoda Samuel Moses Ntende. Consequently, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) then instructed members to comply with a court order to switch on analog TV.

However, two weeks later, Mengo Chief Magistrates Court overturned its earlier order, directing Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to immediately switch back to the old television signal transmission of analogue from digital signal transmission. In her ruling on Tuesday, Ms Janeva Natukunda principle magistrate grade one said court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by city lawyer Enoth Mugabi to order UCC to switch back to analogue. “I find that court had no jurisdiction to entertain the application MA number 465/2015 and grant orders therein. I hereby exercise my powers under section 98 of CPA and set aside all orders granted in MA number 465/2015 on July 2, this year.”

The magistrate further added that she had already found that even the main suit could not be heard by the court because it had no jurisdiction to handle it. Natukunda’s orders came after UCC filed an application to vary the earlier orders and also set aside the main application.

Under analogue broadcasting, TV stations carry their own signals but under digital migration, they relinquished the role to Signet, an affiliate body of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation that does uniform transmission to a wider spectrum.

Uganda’s migration follows her neighboring counterparts’ success. Kenya which successfully implemented the digital migration early this year was also characterized by similar back and forth battles that saw the regulatory authority tussle it out in court with the three major broadcasters NTV, Citizen and KTN. Tanzania and Rwanda also successfully implemented the digital migration process with little fuss.

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