Experts skeptical about Ghana’s StarTimes DTT enhancement move
By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana
Despite assurances from Ghana’s Communications Minister of a smooth take off of the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration process this month, industry pundits within the country’s broadcast space are still skeptical about the government moves to enhance the platform.
Most believe the agitation surrounding the whole DTT process between the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) and the Minister of Communications concerning the alleged involvement of StarTimes to enhance the platform is far from over.
The Ministry of Communications has previously denied claims that it intended to hand over the country’s DTT platform to StarTimes, stating” “The Ministry has not reneged on its framework for managing the DTT platform and wish to reiterate that the ministry has no intention of allowing StarTimes or any foreign entity to manage the platform.” However, the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, during an interview on Accra-based radio station Joyfm Newsfile, noted that the enhancement of the DTT platform would assist the government among other things in its revenue mobilization agenda through the collection of TV licenses fees from consumers.
Meanwhile speaking to Biztechafrica alongside a workshop to educate Ghanaian journalists on issues pertaining to the digital terrestrial television migration process, the Dean of the Network of Communication Reporters, Charles Benoni Okine, urged the government to allow local broadcasters to play a leading role in the whole process to ensure that the doubts expressed so far about the migration were addressed amicably.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) although supportive of the government migration move vehemently opposes the alleged involvement of Chinese firm StarTimes to operate Ghana’s Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure.
The group said in a statement that “If StarTimes is allowed to control both Ghana’s only digital television infrastructure and the satellite space in the name of digital migration, Ghana would have virtually submitted its broadcast space to Chinese control and content.”
The government of Ghana signed a deal with the StarTimes DTV Ghana Company Ltd, a Ghanaian registered entity on 11th April, 2012 .contract to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform for Ghana. StarTimes Ghana later assigned its interest to StarTimes China because it was a necessary condition for funding from the China EXIM Bank. After six months of delays, the contract was eventually assigned to StarTimes China on 27th September 2012.
But the contract with Startimes was terminated due to 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, 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.
In 2016, after KNET had completed more than half of the DTT project, StarTimes proposed the utilization of US$95 million to the previous government with a promise to complete and enhance the DTT project which was entering the third and final phase. But upon further interrogation, the proposed deal was deemed to be too expensive to the Ghanaian tax payer.