The Deputy Minister of Communications, George Andah, has dispelled suggestions that Chinese broadcaster, StarTimes, has been contracted to manage the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform.
According to him, StarTimes have been brought on to the project solely to enhance the platform.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) had earlier called on government to immediately end negotiations with StarTimes over Ghana’s Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure.
According to GIBA, the project which aims at protecting broadcasting from interference must not be given to the foreign firm, which also owns a TV network in Ghana.
“They [government] should stop the discussions they are having with StarTimes. Ghanaians are capable of doing whatever project DTT will bring to Ghana. The future of DTT rests in the hands of Ghanaians, and we have enough technology and the know-how,” President of GIBA, Andrew Danso Anninkora said in an interview on the Citi Breakfast Show on Tuesday.
Speaking on Eyewitness News, Mr. Andah expressed surprise at GIBA’s “misinformation” given the Association’s involvement in drafting the policy document.
“GIBA’s concern seems to be misplaced because they feel, StarTimes is going to manage the platform and that it’s going to StarTimes that is going to be putting its conditional access, it’s middleware on the platform and that is not the case. I tend to believe that GIBA may have forgotten that they have provided input into the draft DTT policy document which talks about who is going to manage the platform and who are members of the Board.”
He also added that the platform will be managed by a new firm called the Central Digital Transmission Company, which will be presided over by a seven-member Board, on which GIBA has a representative.
“The whole infrastructure is going to be managed by the Central Digital Transmission COmpany. It has been registered and is going to have a seven-member Board that will include the Chairman, representatives from the Ministry of Communications, from the Ministry of Finance, from GBC, from GIBA and from the public, preferrably somebody from the Creative Arts industry and the Chief Executive of the Central Digital Transmission COmpany Limited. So it’s going to be this seven-member board that will be responsible for managing the platform.
GIBA themselves are a party to this draft DTT policy and they clearly know who is going to manage the platform. SO when they start to put out misinformation that StarTimes are going to manage the platform, it’s a bit difficult to appreciate where they are coming from or what is informing that position they are taking.”
GIBA in an earlier statement said: “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.” Hence, they have called on Ghanaians to revolt against the alleged deal.
Mr. Andah rejected this claim, reiterating that StarTimes will solely be responsible for enhancing the existing network
“I 100 percent agree with GIBA that StarTimes have no role in managing the platform. Indeed as at now on the platform we have, KNet have a 4-year ONM contract, they are in the third year and have a year more to go. What StarTimes are doing as far as the platform is concerned is to enhance the network.”
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) urged governments in the world to migrate from analog broadcasting to digital by June 2015.
Some countries have been able to migrate including some in Africa. However, Ghana one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa missed the deadline several 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, 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-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.
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 is not ready for the move.
She then shifted the deadline for the migration from analog to digital broadcasting to 2018.
According to her, the project implementation process faced some challenges, hence the change in date.