New entity to manage digital TV platform - Ursula
Ghana’s Digital Terrestrial Platform (DTT) infrastructure will be managed as a commercial entity, the Ministry of Communications has announced
will be incorporated as the Central Digital Transmission Company Limited (CDTCL) and governed by a board, the ministry has explained.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, said the board would be constituted with representatives from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the creative arts industry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) and the CEO of the .
In its statement, the ministry denied claims that the government intended to hand over Ghana’s DTT platform to StarTimes, a Chinese firm.
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It said 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 ministry has not reneged on its framework for managing the DTT platform and wish to reiterate that the ministry has no intention of allowing StarTimes or any foreign entity to manage the platform,” the statement stressed.
It said 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.
GIBA has raised alarm over what it claims are the government’s attempts to hand over the entire DTT infrastructure to Startimes.
It also questioned grant of tax waivers to the Chinese company, without extending similar benefits to local companies engaging in similar projects.
According to the Ministry of Communications, next meeting with stakeholders would take place within the next 10 days.
“The next DTT engagement session with the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Finance, the National Communications Authority, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the creative arts industry and content producers, the Ghana Institute of Engineers, the Media Commission, the Chamber of Telecommunications, K-NET, the Consumer Protection Agency and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications is expected within the next 10 working days,” the statement pointed out.
The engagement, it noted, would address, among other things, Digital (DSO) , management of the DTT platform, current draft DTT policy, of the DTT infrastructure and enhancement of the DTT network.
The ministry said it had been in consultation with stakeholders at various stages of this project and intended to continue consultation with all industry players.
The statement explained that the DTT project was an infrastructure development project which was aimed at providing a digital transmission backbone to facilitate Ghana’s migration from to digital transmission.
“The project is owned by the government of Ghana and is to be operated by the state-owned compact specially established for the purpose,” it said.
It said work had been completed on phase one of the project, leading to the provision of 40 digital channels currently in use.
Phase two of the project, the statement explained, required an expansion of the network to up to 60 channels to bring the total number of channels to 100.
“Building an enhanced infrastructure for both transmission and content is in line with the government of Ghana’s commitment to the rural and urban digital divide,” it said.
Satellite TV project
It said the ministry was rolling out a satellite TV project that would enable 300 communities across the country to have access to satellite television.
“It is an Africa-wide project which will provide the same service for 10,000 communities in 25 African countries,” the statement explained.
It said the 300-community satellite TV project was expected to benefit 6,000 households drawn from 300 communities nationwide, adding that the “project is another giant step aimed at helping our citizens to access TV information on national and international events and programmes that will educate and inform them, hence increasing their awareness and knowledge to improve their welfare”.
The statement “a service provider, StarTimes, has been working with the Ministry of Communications and various districts and regional representatives to identify the 300 communities”.
Apart from the 6,000 households, 900 public viewing locations would be connected through two solar-powered satellite projectors, TV systems 32-inch television sets for free, the statement explained.
“The project will create an opportunity for selected local youth to be trained in providing maintenance support services for the communities and will provide jobs to over 1,000 Ghanaians,” it said.
The project was also expected to serve as a source of education and information for students, as well as provide television entertainment for the wider audience, with dedicated channels for promoting local content, it said.
“Parliament of Ghana earlier this approved tax waivers only for the specific equipment, devices/terminals for the project,” it further explained.
“It is worth noting that several other satellite TV service providers exist already in the Ghanaian media landscape. We notice that some commentators and media reports have confused the two projects and ended up concluding that the ministry has handed over the DTT project to a Chinese company, StarTimes, to operate. The reports further suggest that StarTimes has been granted tax waivers for the purpose and is to the 300 settlements TV project to advance that enterprise,” the statement pointed out.
It said “for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that this project has no correlation or link to the DTT project currently underway. The national DTT platform is separate from the provision of the satellite TV project for the 300 communities”.
The statement added that the ministry would continue to work with all stakeholders and contractors to build the most cost-effective and robust infrastructure and create the right ecosystem to ensure that the interests of viewers, broadcasters and content providers were protected.
However, the GIBA President, Andrew Danso Ahinkora, in an interview with the Daily Graphic on Sunda, insisted that “the ministry has said nothing new. This has been the decision as far back as 2017”, reports Mabel Aku Baneseh.
Ahinkora said one of GIBA’s problems with the ministry was that it was not engaging GIBA and other stakeholders “enough”.
He said GIBA’s challenge with the ministry was “not about what they are going to do but what they are doing now and how they are going about it”.
He said the ministry and other stakeholders had, in February 2018, agreed on a to switch off the but the challenge was getting all DTT sites connected to the national electricity grid.
He alleged that the ministry, in between stakeholder engagements, “cut contact or dialogue with the stakeholders, “only for us to hear about the ministry engaging StarTimes to expand existing DTT platforms”.
Ahinkora said an audit inspection by the Ministry of Communications and StarTimes showed 95 completion of work.
“Now they are talking about expanding of to accommodate more channels. They did not relay this information to us. Expansion never came up in the last stakeholders’ meeting,” Ahinkora said.
The GIBA President conceded that there would be the need for expansion in the future but argued that an expansion that would delay the switch off of was unnecessary.
He said a change in technology on the DTT might negatively affect the investment of the existing private broadcaster, which had invested so much in the project.
“We are simply asking for more engagement and fairer treatment,” Ahinkora pleaded.