Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation is firmly denying local reports that it is merging with China’s StarTimes Group.
ZNBC chairman Mulenga Kampwepwe said the broadcaster remains publicly owned and cannot be sold or taken over without the approval of parliament.
However, local commentators are perhaps justifiably confused because Kampwepwe confirmed that the relationship between ZNBC and StarTimes was in the formation of the joint venture company Top Star, but adding that the two firms have retained their full operational and ownership autonomy.
The formal denial is not helped by the fact that Zambia’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission CCPC chairman Kelvin Bwalya Fube has granted a conditional authorisation for a merger of ZNBC with Hantex Corporation, which is controlled by StarTimes. He said an application was made on June 20th for the merger of the two institutions.
According to a report in the Lusaka Times, StarTimes’ shareholding in ZNBC would only be relinquished upon full payment of an over $270 million loan obtained by the government for digital TV migration.
ZNBC and Hantex had formed a joint venture called Top Star, which currently controls digital television signals, but the government, through spokesperson Dora Siliya, is still disputing the move. Siliya said government will advise on the purported sale of ZNBC to the Chinese in a statement by the Competition Commission “as soon as possible.
Local objectors to any sort of relationship with StarTimes also complain that the government over-paid for the digital conversion.