UBC to be switched off by Intelsat over Shs3.7b arrears

Uganda’s National Broadcaster, UBC’s satellite service is set to be switched off on October 1, 2022 over an outstanding bill of UGX3.7bn that has accrued over time. Information from Intelsat, the satellite service provider shows that UBC’s debt has grown over a period of more than one year and Intelsat the satellite service provider is seeking payment of the arrears before continuing offering satellite services to UBC.

Mr.Hervy Mrjuna, Intelsat’s Finance Director, in a letter to the State Minister of ICT, Godfrey Kabbyanga said “We certainly would like to avoid such measures and would regret having to take actions that may result in the 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.

If the planned shutdown goes ahead at the beginning of October, more than 30 television channels along with free-to-air decoders that use UBC’s infrastructure will cease to be operational, cutting a large portion of free-to-air TV users from television access.

On August 23, Mr. Kabbyanga wrote to Intelsat requesting the firm to put on pause the planned halt of their services on the basis that the government was still at a critical time of mass popularizing coronavirus vaccinations 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 popularizing the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and the parish development model,” Mr. Kabbyanga said. He added that the termination of service would deprive the national broadcaster of communicating government programmes and the National Resistance Movement (the ruling party) manifesto.

The Minister confirmed having written to Intelsat although he wasn’t able to commit an update on whether UBC’s management was in the process of clearing the debt. He directed further inquiries to the UBC management, who would have a more satisfactory response.

UBC’s Managing Director, Winston Agaba, explained that the firm had not cleared the debt and was ironing out a plan with the Ministry of Finance to sort out the issue.

“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 the government this year made budget cuts for all government agencies due to financial constraints.

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