Bribery & Blackmail Cited In Startimes Deal

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Mrs. Akufo-Addo Gets Cash & Gifts As Prez. Falls For Exim Loans

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The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), appears to be on a lost cause over its opposition to the StarTimes-Ghana government satellite deal, as the Chinese company, had cunningly “bought” First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, with sumptuous goodies ahead of her husband’s decision to hand over Ghana’s DTT infrastructure to them to manage.

But aside the inducement of Mrs. Akufo-Addo, Deputy Communications Minister, George Andah, suggest a clear case of blackmail by the founder of StarTimes, Pang Xinxing.

The obvious blackmail, forced the Akufo-Addo government to dish out the country’s Ghana’s DTT infrastructure to StarTimes, although a local firm K-NET, has built and shown capacity to manage the infrastructure. Indeed, it is currently running it smoothly to the excitement of GIBA.

The Chinese company, has become a major sponsor of the Rebecca Foundation; a charity organization owned by the First Lady.

Three week ago, Mrs. Akufo-Addo, who was in China with her husband, delightfully wrote about her meeting with the owner of Star Times Corporation Mr Pang Xinxing and the gifts she received for and on behalf of her foundation.

There are reports that StarTimes, also made some handsome cash donations to the Rebecca Foundation, however, the amount has not been disclosed apart from the customized gifts.

After the meeting, Mrs. Akufo-Addo, gleefully took to Facebook and wrote “Earlier today at the Star Times Corporation in Beijing, China, I was excited to see the unveiling of the design, of a football kit to be used by Ghanaian children, in a sports exchange programme later this year.

Last year my foundation, the Rebecca Foundation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Licang District Experimental School, in Qingdao, to establish an exchange programme, between Ghanaian and Chinese schoolchildren beginning this year.

I got a tour of the impressive Star Times Corporation by the Founder, Mr. Pang Xinxing, Who through his impressive global company is supporting the children with sports kits which includes, jerseys, socks, bags and water bottles. I am most grateful for the support and look forward to an effective collaboration”.

The comradery between Mrs. Akufo-Addo and Mr. Pang Xinxing, suggested that the deal had already been sealed.

Mr Pang Xinxing, who is said to be powerful and very influential in the Chinese governance, had blocked a US$19 billion loan facility from the China EXIM bank part of which will be used to complete the Eastern Corridor roads.

This appears to have blackmailed the Akufo-Addo government to dish out the country’s DTT infrastructure to StarTimes.

GIBA, has been up in arms against the government over what it believes is a crafty attempt to hand over Ghana’s DTT infrastructure to a third party, StarTimes, to manage.

The Association of indigenous broadcasters in a recent statement described the agreement between the government and StarTimes dubbed ‘Access to Satellite TV for 300 Villages in Ghana Project’ as inconsistent with a roadmap for the DTT migration, suggesting that the deal is part of the grand scheme by the government to serve the interest of the Chinese company for political expediency.

The ‘300 village satellite TV project’, according to Communications Ministry, will benefit 6,000 households drawn from 300 villages nationwide.

According to the Ministry, the project is aimed at helping Ghanaian citizens to access TV information on national and international events and programmes that would educate and inform them, but GIBA says the project as a ruse to slip in the Chinese company to manage the DTT migration.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) directed governments in the world to migrate from analogue broadcasting to digital by June 2015. A number of countries have been able to migrate including some in Africa but Ghana, one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, has missed the deadline many times.

The Communications Ministry in October 2015, signed a contract with K-Net Limited for the rolling out of the DTT project which demanded the completion of the DTT network within 12 months.

The Ministry of Communications under the current government, has said the DTT project handed over to it was to be undertaken in three phases and financed from “internally generated funding from the sale of national radio frequency spectrum auctioned by the National Communications Authority to enable that Ghana met international deadlines for digital migration.”

Meanwhile, a big shot at GIBA has explained that their opposition to the StarTimes-government satellite deal is informed chiefly by its potential to distort the pay TV market.

Dr. Chief Crystal-Djirackor, who is the Chairman of the Council of Elders of GIBA, is urging the government to facilitate and build capacity for all players in the sector equally, instead of giving the Chinese satellite TV operator on edge.

“If you have a roadmap [to roll out Digital Terrestrial TV nationwide]…and then government supports somebody…[it] will distort the market process.

“We have seven free-to-air satellite licences in Ghana including MultiTV, we have eight pay TV licences…if you give such a support to on pay TV, who are going to be charging ¢15 Ghana to after six months, you are only distorting the market,” he explained on Joy FM/MultiTV news analysis show, Newsfile.

Shedding light on GIBA’s strong stance against the engagements between StarTimes and government on Newsfile last Saturday, Dr. Djirackor, blamed the Communication Ministry for failing to engage the key players in the satellite TV space on the digital migration drive.

He explained that, the Ministry’s poor engagements with important institutions, like the National Communications Authority (NCA) is poor and was fuelling suspicion that government had a sinister plan.

“The thing is what StarTimes is bringing into the country, have they investigated it? I have one. The boxes have StarTimes licences…even if it is freely given then you are closing the door to MultiTV [an indigenous pay TV satellite operator],” Dr Crystal-Djirackor stated.

According to GIBA, StarTimes, has already set up a pay-TV in Ghana, therefore allowing them to handle the entire DTT infrastructure, would threaten Ghana’s security and independence.

The National Democratic Congress’ (NDC), Ras Mubarak, insists that the involvement of StarTimes in the entire process s is suspicious.

“The Ministry is trying to find a way out of a mess they have created… there’s clearly no transparency in the entire exercise.

“The response from the ministry clearly cannot be classified as satisfactory. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and we would want the ministry to meet the Committee as soon as possible to lay bare the facts,” he said.

The Kunbungu Member of Parliament (MP), believes there is an element of conflict of interest in the deal.

“When you have StartTimes sponsoring the First Lady’s foundation and this is the company that is going to be given this amount of job. Then you clearly wonder whether there is any iota of seriousness in being transparent with Ghanaians in fighting corruption,” he said.

He wondered why the deal has not passed through Parliamentary Committee with oversight over the Ministry of Communication.

Ras Mubarak, said although the deal was mentioned briefly, the ministry was yet to come back with official details on it.

“It goes to show you the levels of disrespect that the ministry is exhibiting towards even the Committee that has oversight responsibility for it.

“What is government hiding from the people,” he queried.

But the Communications Ministry, has reiterated its position that Ghana’s broadcasting space is not being handed over to Chinese firm StarTimes as is being perceived by some Ghanaians.

“The ministry wishes to state emphatically that it has in no way committed to and does not intend to hand over the management of the DTT infrastructure platform to any third party. The DTT infrastructure platform shall be managed as a commercial entity incorporated as the central Digital Transmission Company Limited (CDTCL)governed by a board (Representatives from GIBA, TNX Creative Arts Industry and contents Producers, MoF, MoC, the CEO of the CDTCL and the board chair)

“The selection of a contractor and financing options for any aspect of the project ought not to be interpreted as an intention to hand over the ownership and management of the platform to any third party,” a statement by the ministry read in part.

The Chinese company has secured a deal with government that will see it extend satellite TV to over 300 villages across the country, saying the communications ministry believes the move will help Ghanaians in rural communities to become alert on national issues and be involved in development since they have will access to content about national projects.

But GIBA believes the move is a cover up by the Chinese firm to push them out of business and control the national space.

“The Agenda of StarTimes is not only aimed at profit or the indoctrination of Chinese culture (names, language, food, etc.) and programmes, but a larger mandate to take over the control of the broadcast space in strategic African countries including Ghana, which is crucial for the China game. Whereas today, China does not allow foreign ownership of media and for that matter, will not allow the African broadcast media the space to trade our African channels in their country. Why then should African states give our broadcast space in the fashion as we are experiencing at the moment”.

 

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