Business News of Wednesday, 19 September 2018
The Communications Ministry has described as misplaced, concerns raised by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) about Chinese pay-TV, StarTimes’ involvement in the country’s digital terrestrial television (DTT) infrastructure.
The Association on Tuesday raised alarm over what they said were government’s attempts to hand over the entire DTT infrastructure to the Chinese company.
They also questioned government’s grant of tax waivers to the Chinese company without extending similar benefits to local companies doing the same things.
But Deputy Communications Minister, George Andah, disagrees with GIBA on the matter.
He said, “their concern seems to be misplaced because they feel StarTimes is going to manage the platform and that it is going to be StarTimes that is going to be putting its conditional access or its middleware and that is not the case.”
According to him, government is giving StarTimes tax waivers because they promised to give some 300 deprived communities in Ghana digital TV viewing experience.
He explained that the tax waiver covers only that part of the agreement and nothing more.
“We are giving tax waivers because of the fact that they are setting us this infrastructure to extend viewing experience to 300 communities and it’s purely for the equipment for this particular aspect of the project. And this is in line with government’s agenda of extending our digital migration activity. I’m not sure that there was any local company that said that they will provide free digital TV experience for 300 communities,” George Andah added.
Ghana has postponed migration to digital broadcasting for more than three times.
The government of Ghana signed a $95 million deal with the Chinese company, StarTimes to contract to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform for Ghana.
But the contract with Startimes was later abrogated over what then Minister for Communications, Omane Boamah, said was due to “failure of the company to secure the necessary funding from the China Exim Bank to execute the project.”
The government then awarded the digital migration contract to K-Net, a Ghanaian-owned company, but K-Net’s work on the project was halted after StarTimes sued the government of Ghana for what it described as the unfair abrogation of their contract with the State.
The former Mahama government promised to attain this feat by September 2017, but the current Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful at a forum in Accra on the digital migration said Ghana is not ready for the move.
She then shifted the deadline for the migration from analog to digital broadcasting to 2018.
According to her, the project implementation process faced some challenges, hence the change in date.
Don’t hand digital migration contract to StarTimes
But GIBA says it has information that governmnte is planning to hand over the infrastructure to StarTimes.
“They [government] should stop the discussions they are having with StarTimes. Ghanaians are capable of doing whatever project DTT will bring to Ghana. The future of DTT rests in the hands of Ghanaians, and we have enough technology and the know-how,” President of GIBA, Andrew Danso Anninkora said in an interview on the Citi Breakfast Show on Tuesday.
He said because StarTimes is already set up in Ghana doing pay-TV allowing them to handle the entire DTT infrastructure does not only threaten Ghana’s security but also it’s independence.
“It has the history of migrating from analog to digital. For some time now the project has been stalling, and we are asking questions, but we are not getting answers. In the interim we are hearing about foreign entities who are registered one way by our understating, entering into space and having many advantages over Ghanaian entities who want to come in as directors, players, and managers of the space. We believe that when that is allowed to happen, the independence of the Ghanaian broadcaster, the media is being compromised. It borders on the security of the country. It borders on threatening the democracy of Ghana,” the GIBA president added.