Kampamba: TopStar Company Owns Majority 60% Shares In ZNBC

TOPSTAR Communications Company is now fully operational and Start Times owns the majority 60 per cent while ZNBC has minority stake at 40 per cent, information minister Mulenga Kampamba has confirmed.
Last week, The Mast revealed that the government had forced ZNBC into a joint venture with Star Times to form a company to spearhead the digital migration.
According to sources close to the transaction, TopStar Communications Limited, the joint venture majority owned by the Chinese, will be collecting revenues for the next 25 years to service the US$273 million loan contracted from the Export-Import Bank of China for digitalizing ZNBC’s operations.
Among the revenues that the Chinese company would be collecting will be from advertising and tower rentals.
The sources further revealed that the government had proposed a TV levy increment from K3 to K12 to overcome the revenue loss as ZNBC revenue would be going towards servicing the loan for 25 years.
Addressing the journalists in Lusaka on Thursday, Kampamba said the creation of TopStar was a cheaper form of financing the digital migration project as opposed to contracting a loan on the government’s balance sheet.
“We are now implementing phase two and three of the digital migration project and it will cost US $273 million dollars. This financing is in form of a loan and [the government] decided that instead of placing the burden of repaying this loan on government, the funds to pay back the loan must be repaid by the facilities to be established,” Kampamba said.
“This decision will relieve the pressure from the Treasury. This is the best option for the country if we would like to accelerate development of our nation. The government decided to establish a joint venture between ZNBC and Star Times to ensure that we will have a special purpose vehicle that will establish the facility and raise funds to pay back the loan. This joint venture is now operational and it’s called TopStar Communications Company Limited. ZNBC has 40 per cent shareholding while Start Times has 60 per cent shareholding.”
She announced that accessing the TopStar decoder would cost more than K30 per month.
“The company [TopStar] will operate the public signal distributor and will ensure that all the 1, 250, 000 decoders are sold to the public,” Kampamba said.
“The government directed that a basic bouquet of 25 channels should be created by TopStar Communications Company which should not cost more than K30 in monthly subscription. Among the channels being carried on the Top Star bouquets are local channel which since June 2015 have been riding on the platform for free. This arrangement will not continue as government will have to raise funds. At an appropriate time, we will announce the commencement of operation of TopStar and the start of changing the transmission fees. These fees will be regulated by ZICTA [Zambia Information Communication and Technology Authority].”
She said TopStar would be the carrier of carriers.
“All the contents service providers like ZNBC and the other 16 [television stations in the country] will continue to collect the advertising revenue on their channels,” Kampamba claimed.
“…TopStar will only charge appropriate carriage fees from these companies. As minister responsible for this project, I can only say that we are now in full gear implementing phases two and three and very soon, all other provinces will be receiving very high quality television services.”
But the partnership between ZNBC and TopStar has created a rift on the public broadcaster’s relationship with Multichoice.
Multichoice has since sued ZNBC for taking away some free-to-air channels on the Gotv bouquet and making them available of Star Times’ bouquet.