StarTimes DRC’s venture comes to an end

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

The operations of Chinese-owned pay TV company StarTimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been halted by the Congolese government, which withdrew its licence this week for allegedly operating illegally in this mineral rich-nation.

The matter is heading to court, sources close to the matter said, adding that it could be a long battle as the company insists that it has all the documentation to operate here.

StarTimes, which supplies the Congolese viewers with digital content via satellite at a modest price of 10 000 Fc (about US$10), has gone through a lot in the DRC since launching its operations in July 2013.

Minister of posts, telecoms and ICTs Kin-Kiey Mulumba and government spokesperson and minister of media and communication Lambert Mende had a fall-out over the legality of StarTimes, with the latter slamming his colleague of poking his nose in the affairs he had no authority or control of.

But in the end, it appears as if Mulumba had the last laugh as he was instructed by Prime Minister Matata Ponyo to ensure that StarTimes stopped all broadcasting activities and ceased to exist in the DRC.

Mulumba has long accused StarTimes of violating Section 17.3 of the telecommunications law No013/2002 of 16 October 2002, which stipulates that all broadcasters apply for a valid licence before operating in the country.

The news of StarTimes’ ‘deportation’ was greeted by consternation and disbelief in the streets of the capital Kinshasa.

“I don’t believe it, something is fishy here. Why only now? It smells of a political plot,” one StarTimes fan, Jean de Dieu Makiadi, told Biztechafrica.

“Why would such a big company operate in the country for one full year, and not be in possession of papers?” Makiadi asked.

“If StarTimes goes, we will be in deep trouble because we cannot afford to cross over to the other camp,” Ruthiana Kabongo said.

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