NTV, BBS TV risk losing licence over COVID-19 broadcast content

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UCC Building in Bugolobi Kampala; Online Photo

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has summoned 3 TV stations NTV, BBS TV and Spark TV to explain themselves over breach of minimum broadcasting standards in relation to broadcast of information relating to COVID-19.

The three stations are accused of misinforming the public, when they allegedly aired material that had the potential “to confuse, divert and mislead unsuspecting members of the public against complying with the guidelines issued by the relevant Government authorities on the Coronavirus.”

In a letter issued on Sunday, the Acting UCC Executive Director Irene Sewankambo Kaggwa said the stations are further accused of amplifying, dramatising, glorifying and rebroadcasting the said content.

Through its programme “Ebyokya ku Wiikendi” on 28 March 2020, BBS TV is accused of broadcasting misleading statements made by Pastor Augustine Yiga regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda.

On the other hand, NTV is accused of providing a platform for one Simon Senyonga on its “MorningATNTV” programme on 26 March 2020 to make objectionable COVID-19 related statements.

As for Spark TV, Pastor Augustine Yiga is again responsible for the statements that were made on its “Live Wire” programme on 27 March 2020.

Ms Kaggwa reminded broadcasters of their obligations under Section 31 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, which provides for Minimum Broadcasting Standards under Schedule 4. Paragraph (a)(v) of Schedule 4 further enjoins a broadcaster to ensure that every programme broadcast complies with existing laws of Uganda.

Accordingly, Ms Kaggwa Sewankambo cited Section 171 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120, which criminalizes conduct that is likely to lead to the spread of a dangerous disease.

The concerned TV stations must provide sufficient written explanation for the highlighted breaches within five days.

Failure to explain themselves satisfactorily, the Commission could proceed to institute regulatory sanctions against them, including the possibility of suspending their licenses, and/or initiate prosecution under Section 171 of the Penal Code Act.

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