Minister clears air on StarTimes digital migration deal

Ministry of Communications has described as misplaced, concerns raised by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) about Chinese pay-TV, StarTimes’ involvement in the country’s digital terrestrial television (DTT) infrastructure.

The Association on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 raised alarm over what they said, were government’s attempts to hand over the entire DTT infrastructure to the Chinese company.

They also questioned government’s grant of tax waivers to the Chinese company without extending similar benefits to local companies doing the same things.

But Deputy Communications Minister, George Andah, disagreed with GIBA on the matter.

He said, “their concern seems to be misplaced because they feel StarTimes is going to manage the platform and that it is going to be StarTimes that is going to be putting its conditional access or its middleware and that is not the case.”

According to him, government was giving StarTimes tax waivers because they promised to give some 300 deprived communities in Ghana digital TV viewing experience.

He explained that the tax waiver covers only that part of the agreement and nothing more.

“We are giving tax waivers because of the fact that they are setting us this infrastructure to extend viewing experience to 300 communities and it’s purely for the equipment for this particular aspect of the project. And this is in line with government’s agenda of extending our digital migration activity. I’m not sure that there was any local company that said that they will provide free digital TV experience for 300 communities,” George Andah added.

Ghana has postponed migration to digital broadcasting for more than three times.

The government of Ghana signed a $95 million deal with the Chinese company, StarTimes to contract to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform for Ghana.

But the contract with Startimes was later abrogated over what then Minister for Communications, Dr 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-, 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.

The former Mahama government promised to attain this feat by September 2017, but the current Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful at a forum in Accra on the digital migration said Ghana was not ready for the move.

She then shifted the deadline for the migration from analog to digital broadcasting to 2018.

 

Story: Kofi OWUSU TAWIAH

Writer’s email: kofi.tawiah@todaygh.com

 

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