The Zambian government says it will not reverse its decision to award 60% shares of the national broadcaster, ZNBC to Chinese digital television provider TopStar despite a huge public outcry.
ZNBC has entered into a joint venture with TopStar television which will see the rolling out of decoders for digital television under the TopStar brand as Zambia migrates to digital television.
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 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 Dr Chishimba.
However, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister 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 Journalists during a news briefing.
She said the move to enter into a joint venture with TopStar does not amount to privatisation of ZNBC.
And Top Star Zambia General Manager Cliff Sichone dispelled fears that the move will disadvantage ZNBC.
Mr Sichone said the deal is a win-win for all the parties involved.
He said the deal will offer Zambians a chance to buy a decoder for only K200 and enjoy the widest range of local and international channels.