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Zambia govt won't reverse TopStar decision

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , 21 Feb 2017

Zambia govt won't reverse TopStar decision

Despite a public outcry, the Zambian government has refused to reverse its decision to award 60% shares of the national broadcaster to Chinese digital television provider TopStar.

This follows a joint venture between the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNCB) and TopStar television which will see the rolling out of set top boxes for digital television under the TopStar brand as the country migrates to digital television.

Before the deal, ZNBC was 100% owned by the Zambian government.

According to the deal for the next 25 years, TopStar will be collecting all ZNBC advertising revenues and tower rental fees.

The money will go towards the servicing of a US$273 million loan that the Zambian government has contracted from the Export-Import Bank of China for the investment in the digital broadcasting network and the building of provincial studios.

However, the decision has resulted in a public backlash with stakeholders, including opposition parties, claiming it was bad for both the ZNBC and the country.

Opposition United Progressive People's (UPP) party president Saviour Chishimba said the deal will not benefit Zambians and ZNBC.

"Technically, ZNBC has been privatised. We were not consulted as stakeholders before the decision was made because we pay TV levy. In the next few weeks, our party will file a complaint against the deal because we want answers," said Chishimba.

However, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Kampamba Mulenga said the decision is final.

"Yes, the government has partnered with Star Times to help with the provision of digital television under TopStar Communications. This decision is final and we will not reverse it as it is for the benefit of the country," Mulenga told ITweb Africa.

Due to lack of funds, the Zambian government has only implemented phase 1 of the country's digital migration project - implemented in 2015 in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), but only along the line of rail.

Last month, the Zambian government finally announced that it had sourced money from China for phase 2 and 3 of the project which will include building an undisclosed number of digital transmitters and provincial television studios.

Phase 2 and 3 of the project are also being implemented by Star Software Technologies of China and is expected to be completed in the next two years.

Attempts to reach TopStar Communications for comment proved unsuccessful at the time of publishing.

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