By Spy Uganda
A joint team from Uganda National Musicians Forum and the National Culture Forum has called on Parliament to intervene and push for a fair share of tax revenue from caller ring back tunes (CBRTs) saying the regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has failed them.
The joint team made this request while appearing before the Committee on Information, Communication, Technology and National Guidance on Thursday, 05 October 2023.
The artistes are aggrieved that telecommunication companies continue to earn much higher revenue of 35 per cent from the caller ring back tones leaving them with only 1.8 per cent.
“Currently, telecoms earn a gross revenue of up to Shs72 billion annually, that’s 35 per cent leaving the musician with a paltry 1.8 per cent, yet the musician is obligated to pay income tax of 30 per cent on this income,” said Charles Batambuze, the Vice-Chairperson National Cultural Forum.
They also want Parliament to reign in and push media houses pay for using their music saying only five per cent of broadcasters are currently paying their royalties.
“We wonder why UCC does not invoke the copyright law which requires media houses to pay for using artistes’ work. We have held several meetings with them, signed memoranda of understanding with broadcasters but compliance is still a challenge,” Batambuze said.
The Executive Director of the musicians association, Geoffrey Ekongot told the committee that they have not only engaged UCC but also Uganda Revenue Authority and the Attorney General chambers to no avail.
“We have tried to engage UCC and other government agencies but we have not been helped. We for instance asked the commission that renewal of license for media houses should be based on compliance by paying fees but it has not been effected” said Ekongot.
Ekongot said musicians’ efforts to sue broadcasters and telecom companies for unfair pay and non-compliance have been constrained by the prolonged court processes.
“What is common with most of these cases is that they take a very long time. The recent one of Konshens Vs Airtel Uganda took eight years. There are few artistes who can sustain such a long court battle. The telecoms with their deep wallets finance the court process deliberately to wear you out until you run out of money,” he said.
The Committee’s Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Tonny Ayoo guided that the committee will interact with UCC and the relevant agencies on the plight of artistes, cognizant that there should be mechanisms for artistes to track their due revenue as it is with international ones.
“It is possible to track how much money you earn from the way your music is being utilized, it is possible with YouTube, i-tunes and so these telecoms should provide us that data,” said Ayoo.
Hon. Kazibwe Bashir (NUP, Kawempe Division South) asked the team to come up with a broadcast monitoring mechanism upon which they can track the frequency on which an individual artiste’s music is played to further justify their claim on broadcasters.
“I am one of those who support the idea that media houses should pay money to musicians but we have a lacuna; Is there a broadcast monitoring mechanism? It is possible that broadcasters are paying big musicians and cheating the upcoming ones? You need a system that tells you how many times a song has been played in a day and on which station, whether in Kampala, Katakwi or Kisoro” said Kazibwe.