Uganda: NTV Back On Air

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NTV Uganda resumes transmission at 7pm tonight, three months after it was taken off air by the Broadcasting Council citing technical reasons. NTV General Manager Victor Ngei announced they were resuming transmission in a press release yesterday; "NTV Uganda has today been permitted by the Broadcasting Council to resume transmission with immediate effect."

"It is exactly three months and three days since we were put off the air by the regulatory body... NTV's return to transmission follows a Memorandum of Understanding with the Council in which technical issues that resulted in its closure will be resolved amicably in a specified period," he said.

"It's been a long wait for staff at NTV and the Ugandan public, but your favourite station is now back. I can assure you that when we return to transmission later on today, we will make that long wait worth its while."

NTV Uganda, the latest entrant on Uganda's broadcasting scene, started testing its signal on December 18, 2006. It was first switched off by its host, the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) at the urging of the Broadcasting Council on January 27, 2007. Its signal was reinstated two days later by UBC but was switched off a day later by officials from the Broadcasting Council. Two receivers were also confiscated by the BC.

Putting the TV off air sparked public outcry. Parliament directed MPs on the Presidential Committee early this year to probe the NTV closure. The inquiry lasted about three weeks.

The MPs were also tasked to report whether NTV violated any of the terms of the license agreement and whether the action by the Broadcasting Council to switch off NTV was appropriate, legitimate and within its mandate.

Parliament then recommended that NTV be put back on air as stakeholders' chart the way forward. Later, Parliament passed a resolution directing the government to switch on the TV. The government, however, ignored the resolution.

The Chairman of BC Godfrey Mutabazi had ruled then that NTV would only be allowed to resume transmission, if the station relocated its antennas from UBC's short tower mast which he insisted was in a precarious state. Despite an audit confirming the integrity of the mast, Mutabazi claimed the mast's "joints are bulging" and could fall down anytime. Ironically, NTV antennas are still hosted on the mast.

The Monitor, Kampala, April 30, 2007