Africans court squabble on DTH blocking

Kenya’s Wananchi Group, a pay-TV operator which trades as Zuku, is suing Uganda’s state-backed Luganda channel (which airs as Bukedde TV) alleging that Luganda is not trading fairly.

The dispute comes about because Luganda, which broadcasts free to air across Uganda, has signed an “exclusive” contract with MultiChoice Uganda to carry its signals by satellite.

“On December 2011, without any authorization under any law and without the plaintiff breaching any terms or broadcasting standards, the accused company prevented/blocked the Bukedde Television channel from airing on the plaintiff’s Zuku TV,” reads part of the complaint filed through Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates.

In the detailed complaint, filed before the Commercial Division of the High Court (in Uganda), “the suit is brought to determine the rights and obligations of the parties on the facts in light that the Bukedde signal cannot be carried on Zuku TV. It is alleged that the act of preventing the plaintiff from receiving and carrying the controversial signal is in abuse of a dominant market position, discriminatory, unlawful and against public policy,” quotes a report from BBC Monitoring.

According to the complaint, Bukedde TV is a free-to-air channel meaning that it is a non-subscription based broadcast allowing any person with appropriate receiving equipment to access, view the irrespective of whether it is distributed via terrestrial broadcasting.

“The defendant’s Bukedde Television enjoys a dominant position in the television broadcasting sector by virtue of its access to formerly state owned technologies, broadcast infrastructure and state funding and is prohibited under Uganda Communications Act from engaging in any activities unfairly preventing competition or equality of treatment,” reads the complaint.

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