High Court rules KCCA trade licences on media houses unlawful

Journalists covering an event

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The High Court has ruled that the trade licences imposed by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on media houses operating in the capital is illegal and must cease immediately. The court also declared a similar licence imposed by Local Governments on upcountry media houses to be unlawful.

In a landmark judgment on February 1, 2024, the court emphasized that media houses are already fulfilling their regulatory obligations by paying dues to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

The court deemed the imposition of a trade licence, as per the Trade (Licensing Amendment of Schedule) Instrument No.2 of 2017, on radio and television stations in Kampala and municipalities nationwide as illegal, equating it to double taxation.

“Subjecting the Plaintiffs (media houses) to pay for a trade licence under the Trade (licensing amendment of schedule) instrument No.2 of 2017 that purports to licence Radio Stations, television stations operating in Kampala Capital City and municipalities country wide is illegal and amounts to double taxation,” the court ruled.

The ruling follows a petition filed by 33 media houses, represented by the Uganda Media Owners Association and their legal counsel from Ayigihugu and Company Advocates.

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The media houses took issue with the government’s insistence on charging trade licences for operations within and outside Kampala, including satellite connections. They argued that such additional taxation amounted to double taxation since they were already paying fees to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

Ayigihugu and Company Advocates clarified that the court’s decision implies an exemption for media houses operating radio and television stations within Kampala Capital City from paying trade licence fees to KCCA.

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Similarly, media houses outside Kampala are also relieved from paying trade licence fees to the respective Local Governments or municipalities where they operate.

The media houses involved in the lawsuit include; Radio One, Akaboozi, Radio Simba, Basoga Baino FM, Digida, Buddu FM, Capital Radio, Hot 100.9 FM, Galaxy FM Limited, Signal FM, KFM, Dembe FM, Namirembe FM Limited, XFM, Bukedde FM, NBS Television, NBS Khodeyo, and Open Gate FM.

Others in the lawsuit are; Power FM, Sanyu FM, Touch FM, Spice FM, Voice of Kigezi, Super Station Inc Limited, Radio City, Voice of Toro, Vision Radio, Radio Pacis, Liberty FM Limited, Crooze FM, Voice of Kamwenge, BBS Television, NTV Uganda, and the Uganda Media Owners Association.