A joint team from the Uganda National Musicians Forum and the National Culture Forum has urged Parliament to intervene and advocate for a fair share of tax revenue from caller ring back tunes (CBRTs), asserting that the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has failed to support them. This appeal was made during their appearance before the Committee on Information, Communication, Technology, and National Guidance on Thursday, October 5, 2023.
The artists are deeply concerned that telecommunication companies are earning a much higher revenue of 35 percent from caller ring back tones, leaving them with only 1.8 percent. Charles Batambuze, the Vice-Chairperson of the National Cultural Forum, emphasized the disparity, stating, “Currently, telecoms earn a gross revenue of up to Shs72 billion annually, that’s 35 percent, leaving the musician with a paltry 1.8 percent, yet the musician is obligated to pay income tax of 30 percent on this income.”
They are also requesting Parliament to enforce the payment from media houses for using their music, highlighting that only five percent of broadcasters are currently paying their royalties. Batambuze questioned why the UCC has not invoked the copyright law, which mandates media houses to pay for using artists’ work, despite several meetings and signed memoranda of understanding.
Geoffrey Ekongot, the Executive Director of the musicians association, informed the committee that their efforts to address these issues with UCC, Uganda Revenue Authority, and the Attorney General’s chambers have been futile. He highlighted the challenge of prolonged court processes, making it difficult for musicians to pursue legal actions against broadcasters and telecom companies.
In response, Hon. Tonny Ayoo, the Committee’s Deputy Chairperson, assured the team that the committee would engage with UCC and other relevant agencies regarding the artists’ concerns. He emphasized the need for mechanisms that allow artists to track their due revenue, similar to international standards. Additionally, Hon. Kazibwe Bashir suggested the implementation of a broadcast monitoring mechanism that would enable artists to track the frequency and stations where their music is played, ensuring a fair distribution of payments.
This plea by the joint team illustrates the challenges faced by artists in the digital age, emphasizing the importance of fair revenue distribution and transparent monitoring systems to protect their rights and livelihoods.