General News of Monday, 24 September 2018
The Minister of Communication, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has taken a dig at the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) for claiming that government intends to hand over Ghana’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure to Chinese broadcasting firm, StarTimes to manage.
Ursula said she has however pardoned members of GIBA.
“There was a bit of confusion on their minds on what we were doing, and so I will pardon them and I hope that the clarification that has come will set their minds at ease. I think there was a bit of dis-ingenuity in the GIBA statement and the impression that they were creating that we were handing over the platform to StarTimes to manage when they knew that, that was not the case.”
“So I think that there was some deliberate misinformation put out there and I’m surprised why they did that,” the Minister said.
GIBA last week raised concerns over the possible handing over of the $82.4 million DTT infrastructure to Chinese broadcasting firm, StarTimes; a move they say is not good for the industry.
According to Ursula, GIBA all this while knew what was going on but decided to throw dust in the eyes of the public.
“The reason why I’m saying this is that at the last meeting we informed them that we had registered this central digital migration company as a wholly-owned entity by the government of Ghana for the purpose of managing this platform. We looked at the composition of the membership of the board of directors; they indicated their discomfort with the regulators being on the board. The regulators – media commission and the NCA – being members of the board, and asked that they should be taken off the board and continue with their regulatory roles.”
“So those were issues we favourably considered and we told them that we will come back to them on it. So if you know a company exists that is going to manage the platform, we’ve looked at the composition of the board of the company and then you turn around and say we are handing over management of the platform to a Chinese entity then what are you doing?”
StarTimes’ involvement in Ghana
The government first signed a $95 million deal with the StarTimes to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television network platform for Ghana in 2012.
But the contract with StarTimes was later abrogated over the 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.
As K-NET worked on the project, StarTimes sued the government of Ghana claiming an unfair abrogation of their contract with the State.
It further took the case to the International court after losing in a Ghanaian court.
The Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram MP, Sam George, claimed that the Government of Ghana willingly walked out of the case which it was set to win at the international court over fears of not being able to access a $19 billion loan facility from China for the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure.
Minority to drag Ursula to Parliament over dealings with China’s StarTimes
The Minority in Parliament is seeking to drag the Communications Minister before the House over the controversy surrounding the involvement of Chinese firm StarTimes in the country’s digital television space.
Speaking to Citi News, the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, said their side will haul the Minister before Parliament to provide further clarity and documentation on the matter.
Phase 2 of digital migration cost unclear – Ursula
The government remains unclear on the amount of money it will receive from the China Exim Bank for the second phase of the Digital Terrestrial Television network platform for Ghana.
As it stands, the government expects $97 million as part of an agreement with the Exim Bank of China.
“The contract I signed indicates that before it becomes effective, certain very key milestones have to be undertaken, and so we are nowhere near operationalizing this contract,” the Communications Minister explained further on the Citi Breakfast Show.