The Ministry of Communications earlier this week announced that it has a partnership with Chinese-owned StarTimes to distribute ‘300 village satellite TV project’ nationwide.
This partnership is part of the government’s commitment to bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban areas, the ‘300 village satellite TV project’ is expected to benefit 6,000 households drawn from 300 villages nationwide.
The China-backed digital broadcaster in Africa, StarTimes has been presented to the Ghana government as a condition for obtaining a loan from the Chinese Eximbank.
This has led to a lot of Ghanaians criticising the deal. Here is why we think it is a bad deal for Ghana.
• It is not a win-win for Ghana
Nobody signs a deal which is not beneficial. In this deal, the Chinese government and StarTimes will benefit in several ways. Meanwhile, Ghana will not benefit as much as China will in this deal.
• Arguments have not been convincing
The Deputy Communication Minister George Andah has been explaining what the StarTimes deal entails. He has not been convincing enough.
A contract signed by the government with StarTimes in 2012 was cancelled in 2015 after the Chinese firm failed to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform for Ghana.
The government later signed a new deal with a Ghanaian-owned company K-NET who did the work for $82.4m which is $13m less than the failed Chinese offer. StarTimes sued the government but lost.
The Akufo-Addo government went back for a $1.5bn Chinese facility which was clinched by the Mills government in 2011 but never came.
Mr Andah’s argument is that "I am sure you know how the Exim facility works? It is tied to a supplier that China determines."
How do you accept any condition because you need a loan facility?
Mr Andah adds that StarTimes is in the country this time to do "enhancement" work to that which was done by K-NET.
• Chinese will manipulate our content
Show me a media house without an agenda and I will show you a collapsed media hub. StarTimes may show some Ghanaian content but it will also show a lot of Chinese content. StarTimes will show content that will project the values of the Chinese people. In the long-run, we will have Ghanaians patronising more Chinese made products and probably doing away with Ghanaian products.
• The development of GBC is at stake
The state-broadcaster was established on January 1, 1953, to one day compete with their counterparts in other countries. Meanwhile, StarTimes started operations in 1988. The GBC has met expectations when it comes to its operations.
There is the fear that it may never develop with StarTimes coming on board.
• Ghanaian culture is at stake
Currently, very few local TV stations show Ghanaian-cultural based programmes. There are children born and raised in Ghana who cannot speak or understand any Ghanaian language. Even though we live in a global village, we must consider ways to get more Ghanaian content in the media space instead of pushing another country’s agenda.
• President Akufo-Addo and wife seem to be in the pocket of Pang Xinxing
President of StarTimes Group is Pang Xinxing. When the President and his wife travelled to China, the first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo met Pang Xinxing even before her husband did. There is nothing like a free lunch. This benevolence may be a bait for greater things.
During their meeting, Pang Xinxing donated some items to help the first lady in her maternal projects. He also met President Akufo-Addo in Beijing for the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.