General News of Thursday, 20 September 2018
A Deputy Minister for Communications, George Andah, says the government has not signed an agreement with the Chinese firm, Star Communication Network Technology popularly known as StarTimes, to manage the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure.
Although he said that an agreement with StarTimes is a condition for Ghana to secure a $19 billion loan from the China EXIM bank, Mr. Andah noted that “we did not intend to sign any such contract, [and] we will not sign any such contract.”
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) had raised concerns over the involvement of StarTimes in the project which has been built by a local firm, K-Net.
According to GIBA, StarTimes has already set up a pay-TV in Ghana, therefore allowing them to handle the entire DTT infrastructure would threaten Ghana’s security and independence.
Speaking on The Point of View on Citi TV, the Deputy Minister said they only brought StarTimes on board to inspect the infrastructure put up by K-Net.
“GIBA accused the Ministry and the Government of Ghana of signing a contract to hand over the management of the DTT network to StarTimes. That is exactly the point they were making and we said it is not true. We did not intend to sign any such contract, we will not sign any such contract, and indeed we agree 100% with GIBA that StartTimes has absolutely no role to play and they will have no role to play. And I say this emphatically that it will never happen.”
“It’s a condition to the Chinese EXIM bank facility. It’s not possible. The EXIM bank facility comes with its condition. That is why we are exploring with the sale of spectrums. It cannot be conclusive until we receive the funding,” he added.
The government has postponed migration to digital broadcasting for more than three times.
It, however, contracted StarTimes in 2012 to supply and install the digital terrestrial television (DTT) infrastructure for Ghana.
The infrastructure was to guarantee multiple TV channels, clearer pictures, better sound quality and offer more opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters.
The project which cost $95 million was supposed to have been completed before 2015.
But StarTimes allegedly failed to execute the project within the timelines hence the contract was abrogated in 2014 and handed over to K-NET.
The termination of the contract according to the 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, whilst StarTimes sued the government of Ghana for what it described as the unfair abrogation of their contract with the state.
It later went to the International Court over the issue, but according to the Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, Ghana was winning the case until the government in 2017 decided to settle the case out of court in a bid to secure a $19 billion loan from the China EXIM bank.
He accused the government of not being transparent with Ghanaians over the matter.