KAMPALA – When the government of Uganda decided to comply to the directives of the globe on converting all analogue channel systems to digital, they promised Ugandans they would supervise the operators and regulate the costs charged per month.
The mandate to do so was placed under the Uganda Communications commissions and soon after, they licenced Dstv, Zuku, Azam, starsat, Gotv, Kwese, Kampala Siti cable, star times among others including some free to air channels.
However, Gotv and Dstv have not been fair in the way they increase their monthly subscriptions the way they please. They have made sure they don’t lose a penny in their difficulties but instead pushed the burden to their consumer.
In the recent increment, they have justified and explained that the decision to increase the subscription fees was reached at after looking at the economic outlook in Uganda. One would think the economic outlook is only affecting their company and not the consumers.
I am one of their clients but I also pay subscription fees for my office for my office and bar through other operators. None has been so unfair like these two. What is even more painful is that this is the third increment by Dstv and Gotv in a period of two years. The first was in August 2021 and another August 2022 meaning that every year they intend to increase the fees. The consumers and the Uganda communications Commission are quiet. If the economic situation is biting Dstv and Gotv, then the situation must be worse for the consumers.
Before the migration, a lot of questions were asked how the government was going to help the common person have access to television. Many of these folks especially in the rural areas only access television programmes from neigbours who can afford. Many cannot afford a television set, let alone a set-top box popularly known as a decoder yet somebody increases the subscription fee at will. They seem to have forgotten that Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 37.7% of the population living on less than 2 dollars a day. So how will they afford to part with those huge monthly subscription fees.
Many of the licences networks have maintained affordable monthly subscriptions save for Dstv and Gotv. These two service providers under multi have over the last two years announced numerous increases in the subscription fees in total disregard to the plight of Ugandans. They don’t seem to understand that Ugandans are equally feeling the economic pinch that their company may be experiencing. Some of us are short of concluding that these two are cutting deals with the Uganda Communications commission.
According to statements released by multi choice, the new changes will take effect on 1st April, 2023 and one will have to dig deeper in their pockets to afford the same bouquet they have been accessing. For instance, GOtv Lite subscribers will now pay Ug.shs15000 up from Ug.shs14000 per month, GOtv Value customers will part with Ug.shs21,000 from Ug.shs19000, GOtv Plus customers will pay Ug.shs33,000 from the usual Ug.shs 31,000, GOtv Max subscribers will now pay an extra Ug.shs4000 from the usual shs45000 while GOtv Supa from the 1st day of April, 2023 pay Ug.shs65000 from Ug.shs58000.
Similarly, DSTV Xtra View or PVR customers will pay Ug.shs50,000 from the usual Ug.shs45000, Lumba package will now pay Ug.shs16000 from the usual Ug.shs15000, Access bouquet will now pay Ug.shs43000 away from the usual Ug.shs39000, Family package will cost Ug.shs64000 from Ug.shs59000, Compact bouquet will now cost Ug.shs104000 from Ug.shs95000, Compact Plus customers will now part with Ug.shs160,000 from Ug.shs150,000 whereas Premium customers will now pay Ug.shs275000.
According to the Digital Migration policy of Uganda, the main purpose of the migration process was to ensure that all broadcasting services that were being delivered through analogue network/technologies are fully replicated on the digital broadcasting network/technologies with the aim of switching off the analogue broadcasting services by 2nd February, 2015. That threat eventually happened and so Ugandans started paying in order to watch television. The mandate like I have mentioned was place on the Uganda Communications commissions. The Uganda Communications Commission is the regulatory authority for this sub-sector. The Commission is mandated to monitor, inspect, license and regulate communication services, and protect consumers from excessive tariff increases.
Under Section 5(e) of the Uganda Communications Commissions Act, 2013, the Uganda Communications Commissions is mandated to regulate rates and charges for communications services with a view to protecting consumers from excessive tariffs. Their other obligation under Section 5(i) is to receive and investigate complaints relating to communications services and take necessary action upon them. The Consumer Affairs Office of the Uganda Communications Commission is under the Directorate of Industry Affairs.
However, for an operator or service provider like Dstv and Gotv to simply increase their subscription and then the regulator remains silent is in breach of the law. Just like the service provider, the consumer too needs protection of the commissioner and to avoid unfair competition in the market. Before we know it, even other service providers are also going to increase their subscription to level with multi choice.
The last time I checked, there is no single private or government institution that has increased the salaries of their employees. Why do companies like Dstv and Gotv expect the consumers to get that extra money to meet their increment? The result of this uncontrolled behaviour if unchecked what is fueling corruption in this country. Consumers’ are forced to look for illicit sources of income in order to keep up with the demands of some of these companies. One of these days I may be forced to organise a protest against the regulator and some of these entities that have no regard to the plight of the poor in this country.
Wadada Rogers is a commentator on political, legal and social issues. Wadroger @yahoo.ca
Discussion about this post