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By Joel Mugabi

Upcountry media houses, under their body Rural Broadcasters Association (RUBA), have called on regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), and Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) to halt their plan to implement a policy that will require payment of royalties for music played on their stations.

Rural broadcasters have also appealed to UCC not to tag or make payment of royalties a licensing condition, to be mindful of the jurisdiction in which they operate and not impose conditions that will curtail growth of the arts industry.

They say they incur a lot of regulatory and operational costs such mast rental, salaries, and licenses, and any additional costs could throw them out of business.

In a statement issued by RUBA Chairman Milton Tumusiime, the upcountry media houses have also noted that their association will start “active engagement” with record labels and artists associations in Uganda “because both parties are aware of the key roles they each play in growing the arts.”

They argue that the media houses are promoters of music and other works of art and should therefore not be punished for helping the creative industry. According to RUBA Chairman Tumusiime, broadcasters do not charge musicians for playing their music to a wider audience and that it would be imprudent to force them to start doing so since artistes would suffer the consequences, including lack of enough music distributors in the country which would mean difficulties in promotion.

“As broadcasters, our role in the arts/music industry has always been promotion of works because our music distribution ecosystem is still in its infancy stages. It is important to note that artists and record labels bring their music to radio and televisions voluntarily for air play,” Tumusiime noted. “This is because they know the role that media plays in promoting these works to the public. We do not charge them for playing and promoting this music because we are aware of our social responsibility function of promotion of arts and culture. Once the song has effectively received enough airplay and gained popularity, it then feeds into the commercialized content distribution platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Tidal, Caller tunes from Telecoms etc.”

The broadcasters have further warned artistes not to be misled by what they called UPRS’ “desire to make money off artists runs the risk of killing careers,” and government against giving in to “the temptation of wanting to implement first world solutions to our third world realities.”

The broadcasters say they have already done enough for Government of Uganda (GoU). “We for example, are required to give GoU free airtime daily with complete disregard of our commercial interests. Ministries, Departments and Agencies cut their budgets for upcountry media as a result of this,” explained Tumusiime.

Months ago, RUBA petitioned the Speaker of Parliament regarding the issue of free government airtime. Noting that the media houses had been forced to work as if they were donors, the Speaker referred the matter to the ICT Committee of Parliament for further discussions. The association insists that the one hour of free airtime for the government be only used for airing issues to do with national addresses and emergencies such as those to do with security and disaster preparedness.

They have also suggested that the Management of the radio or television stations determine the allocation and the length of airtime not necessarily in prime time; free government programs be aired once in a month not weekly as ordered by UCC; and Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) budget for airtime in their annual work plan and budget; and that government meets third party monitoring costs of the programs aired. Meanwhile, RUBA announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Sync Media Uganda for the third party media monitoring services as an Industry standard requirement of all its members across the 18 sub regions of Uganda.

The broadcasters have also asked Parliament to appropriate a budget line for them to be able to continue to meet their obligations as businesses since most of them are struggling due to the economic challenges that have been occasioned by the Covid19 pandemic.

Moving forward, RUBA says they have written to URSB Registrar General Mercy Kainobwisho requesting a list and details of copyrighted musicians’ or artists’ works, which once received will inform the association’s guidance to rural broadcasters on the next course of action. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at




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