Delighted subscribers welcome StarTimes DRC back on air

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

Messages of congratulations continue to pour in social networks and smiles are flashing once again in the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as pay TV operator StarTimes is back on air, after being ‘paroled’ by President Joseph Kabila.

Three top government officials last week ordered ARPTC, the regulator, to suspend temporarily the Chinese broadcaster’s operations in the DRC pending further investigation and a court case on the company’s legitimacy and the issue of frequencies.

But one week later, the head of state, through the director of his office Gustave Beya Siku, overruled the Prime Minister and the ministers of media and communications and his colleague of posts-telecoms and ICTs, ordering that StarTimes should reopen its doors.

Siku wrote a letter to the minister who started it all, Kin-Kiey Mulumba, crashing in his face and telling him straight that the regulator had no moral authority to suspend StarTimes.

Siku also said in the letter that the court has no interest wathsoever to decide on the StarTimes matter.

Now, StarTimes is back where it belongs and where it supplies the Congolese TV viewers with quality digital content at a low subscription fee.

“I’m happy and don’t even have words to express my joy now that StarTimes is back on air, I really missed its programmes,” money- changer Sylvain Manzenza told Biztechafrica in Matonge, one of the city’s vibrant townships.

“I don’t earn a lot but I can afford their subscription fee, that’s why I missed it when the signal was cut. Politicians don’t like the people in this country,” street vendor Thomas Ngbanzo said.

The pay TV operator offers 29 channels for 9 300 Fc (about US$10), and 23.000 Fc (about US$23) for 54 channels.

The company, which continues to irritate its rivals due to its low pricing, posted a picture on its Facebook page showing one of its branches wide open, with a caption saying slightly in English: StarTimes shops, always at your service.

Another FB post said: “Long live the return of the signal, long live StarTimes. Thank you all. StarTimes, seize the opportunity of digital life!”

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