Zambia: Local Media Owners Concerned About China's Influence On Broadcast Media Landscape

18 July 2019


StarTimesZambia made a deal with the Chinese media conglomerate, StarTimes, to help switch from analogue to digital TV.

Now, Zambian media owners are criticising the collaboration saying that the country's broadcast industry offers an abundant volume of Chinese kung fu movies but minimal local programming.

A few years ago, when Zambia needed to roll out the digital transmitters needed to carry the current TV signal, StarTimes helped set up a joint venture to distribute the signals.

StarTimes controls 60 percent of the collaborative venture, TopStar, while Zambia's national broadcaster, ZNBC, owns the other 40 percent.

Fast forward to 2019 - local media owners and media watchdogs are now very concerned about China's influence in Zambia's media landscape.

The Media Owners Association of Zambia (MOAZ) says that many of Zambia's private TV owners are not benefitting from digital migration - and they are accusing TopStar and StarTimes of shutting them out of the digital market.

Legally, TopStar is supposed to operate solely as a signal distributor - Zambia's digital migration law doesn't allow a single entity to hold both a license to distribute TV signal and also simultaneously provide content.

But many claim that the ownership setup of StarTimes and the Chinese government influence the content distributed by TopStar in Zambia.

In May 2019, MISA Zambia, one of the country's media watchdogs, accused TopStar of playing a dual role of provider and distributor which risks creating a monopoly.

The Zambian government vehemently denies this.

StarTimes denies having ulterior interests in Zambia's private TV market. The company says that it only wants to create a sustainable and positive environment to make Zambia's TV industry flourish.

Source: All Africa