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Blows in Parliament over StarTimes Deal

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Parliament House yesterday recorded another session of embarrassment as the venue for the Communications Committee meeting to discuss the controversial Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project was virtually turned into a boxing arena.

Chairman of the Committee Kennedy Agyapong and a committee member Sam George were said to have engaged in nasty exchanges forcing an abrupt suspension of the meeting.

The near-fisticuff was between the two mavericks, Mr. Agyapong and Mr. George, NDC Member for Ningo-Prampram Constituency as both honourable members took entrenched positions during deliberations.

While Mr. Agyapong publicly posited that K-NET, the local company with vested interest in the deal had unfairly treated his television station, NET 2, by taking it off its platform when they (K-Net) were in charge of the deal, and therefore, demanded abrogation of the K-NET deal with government, Mr. George countered that NET 2 was taken off the K-NET platform because of Agyapong’s inability to pay for satellite link charges.

The two lawmakers held on to their entrenched positions compelling the meeting to end abruptly.

Following the altercation, which was said to have occurred in the public view of representatives from the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), the meeting to discuss the StarTimes deal had to be suspended.

The meeting was recalled some 30 minutes later and the two legislators have since apologized to each other for the gaffe.

“There was an issue that should not have happened in the first place, especially as there were visitors attending the committee. It was an embarrassing spectacle but we will try and resolve it internally,” a member of the committee, Ras Mubarak reportedly told Starr News’ Parliamentary correspondent Ibrahim Alhassan.

Members of GIBA, according to reports, looked on helplessly while the two – Agyapong (Chairman) and Sam George (Member) went personal and engaged in heated exchanges.

Background

The DTT infrastructure was to guarantee multiple TV channels, clearer pictures, better sound quality and offer more opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters.

The project, which cost $95 million, was supposed to have been completed before 2015, but StarTimes allegedly failed to execute the project within the timelines hence the abrogation of the contract in 2014 and subsequent take-over by Ghanaian firm, K-NET.

The termination of the contract according the then Minister for Communications, Omane Boamah, was due to “failure of the company to secure the necessary funding from the China Exim Bank to execute the project.”

Startimes later went to the International Court over the issue, but according to the Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, Ghana was winning the case until the current government in 2017 decided to settle the case out of court.

Meanwhile, GIBA is accusing government of trying to handover the DTT infrastructure to StarTimes to manage; a claim government has refuted.

The Minority in Parliament has already served notice they will drag the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu, before the House over the matter.

Dr. Chief Crystal Djirasah, Chairman of the Council of Elders of GIBA said they had a fruitful discussion with the Committee, adding that “we need to work together, the whole thing is so technical”.

He added that they have agreed to meet the Minister, believing that when they work together, “we will all do what is right for the country”.

Blame Ursula

In a related Mr. Agyepong who is also the Assin Central Member of Parliament is pointing accusing fingers at the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful for the controversies surrounding Ghana’s migration from analogue to digital television.

He told journalists yesterday that “all these” were happening because of the Minister.

“You see my members [party folk] will say that I have a slip lip. All these problems happened because of the minister, I’ll tell you, don’t push me…” Mr Agyapong lamented.

The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP was speaking to journalists after a meeting between the Communications committee of Parliament and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).

By: The Publisher

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