UBC yet to pay Besigye Shs80m court award

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UBC yet to pay Besigye Shs80m court award
Court awarded Besigye the damages for UBC's breach of electoral code

This award stemmed from UBC's refusal to broadcast Besigye's political advertisements during the 2016 general elections.

The Managing director of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), Mr Winston Agaba, has revealed before Parliament that the national broadcaster has not yet paid up over Shs80 million awarded to former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye by the High Court.

This award stemmed from UBC's refusal to broadcast Besigye's political advertisements during the 2016 general elections.

Appearing before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE), chaired by Busiro East Member of Parliament Medard Sseggona, Agaba was questioned about compliance with the court's directive to pay Besigye.

"That money is directed in the debt. We didn’t pay him,” Agaba said,

Pressed further by Sseggona, Agaba explained that the debt originated from historical records indicating Besigye had paid for adverts through a third party, but UBC was instructed not to air them.

He indicated uncertainty about the directive's origin but suggested it might have come from the Minister of Information at the time.

Regarding UBC's broadcasting practices, Sseggona criticised the broadcaster for potential political bias, preventing Besigye from advertising, which, he argued, could impact revenue and audience trust.

"It has an impact on audience because if you are going to broadcast on one side, those that don’t subscribe will not tune in," Sseggona noted, highlighting potential financial losses due to a decline in viewership.

Agaba responded by detailing UBC's restructuring efforts, which initially focused on bolstering its television sector.

He mentioned challenges stemming from inconsistent funding despite a presidential directive intended to support UBC over five years.

"The Board has recommended harmonizing this issue and requesting that 100 percent of wages should be covered by the government," Agaba said.

Sseggona also raised concerns about UBC's employment practices, noting the existence of three separate payrolls within the organization, which he cautioned could lead to discrimination among employees performing similar roles and potential legal repercussions.

"My biggest concern, especially with UBC, is that you seem to maintain three payrolls. Doesn't this bring about discrimination amongst your employees in terms of payment and conditions of service?" Sseggona queried.

The COSASE committee pledged further investigation into UBC's financial management and compliance with legal directives, underscoring the need for transparency and fair employment practices within the national broadcaster.

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