‘We cannot mortgage our broadcasting unit to the Chinese’ – Muntaka

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Minority Chief Whip in Parliament, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka
Minority Chief Whip in Parliament, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka

The Minority Chief Whip in Parliament, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka has asked the Minister of Communications to tone down her comments on the StarTimes deal with the government.

According to him, the Minister should stop personalizing the issues and stop talking with emotions.

To him, it would be dangerous to “mortgage our communication unit to the Chinese."

Related: New entity to manage digital TV platform - Ursula

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In a radio interview with Accra based Class FM on Monday, Alhaji Muntaka said the Minority Members of Parliament were working to ensure that the Communications Committee of Parliament invites the Minister to brief Parliament on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and the StarTimes 300 satellite TV project.

He said they would be demanding official documentation on the project so as to enable them come out with their official position on the matter.

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Read also: Digital migration, StarTimes’ satellite TV project not related – Gov’t

The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has expressed concerns with how the Ministry of Communication intends to roll out the DTT and objected to the agreement between the government and StarTimes, dubbed Access to Satellite TV for 300 Villages in Ghana which will benefit 6,000 households.

Read also: We say no! - GIBA kicks against StarTimes digital TV deal

According to GIBA, the 300 community TV project which would be launched in Accra on Wednesday would be conflicting with a roadmap for Ghana’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration.

GIBA has consequently accused the Ministry of offering a “sweetheart” deal to the Chinese television station, StarTimes.

Public concerns are that, if care was not taken, China through StarTimes, may end up bombarding Ghanaians with Chinese content as part of a grand scheme by China to take over Africa, economically.

Related: StarTimes: Why govt must listen to Ghanaians - Omane Boamah writes

Responding to the concerns in separate radio and television interviews last week and over the weekend, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said GIBA cannot dictate to government.

Describing the concerns as alarmist, the Minister said her unwillingness to engage GIBA was because she does not really understand what the concerns of GIBA were.

Muntaka's comment

But commenting, Alhaji Muntaka said: “we are urging the communication committee to meet this time, this week and to try to ask for official documentation.”

“It doesn’t make sense to go back to StarTimes because of the credibility gap they have created. They made us miss the 2015 [DTT migration] deadline.”

“The extension of the job 600 is being done by the Chinese, the scanners you see, are from the Chinese, so the Chinese cannot… unless they are actively involved to say that, unless you give us this very project, then Ghana does not want us to be here, I don’t think that can be right. So I am encouraging government to point to them, 1001 projects, whether roads, whether construction of buildings, they are abundant to show to them our commitment.”

“But they have failed, that is why we won the case at the High Court, we won the case at the ICC, so we cannot mortgage our broadcasting unit to the Chinese, that will be too dangerous for us to do,” Muntaka said.

“In the interim, we are asking our members to go for the official documentation and based on that we will respond officially,” Alhaji Muntaka said.

He also urged the Minister of Communications to “stop personalizing things. It looks like she is speaking with emotions as if people are accusing her as an individual. Governance, all of us have been there, sometimes it is frustrating, you think that you are doing your best and people question your best. It is for you to listen, maybe you’ve not worked hard enough and there are loopholes."

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