TopStar has roles in Zambia's digital migration curtailed


Following a public outcry, Zambia's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cancelled TopStar's dual role as content provider and public signal carrier in the country's ongoing digital migration project.

The Chinese firm is helping Zambia to fully migrate to digital broadcasting through a JV with the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). TopStar owns 60% shares in ZNBC.

Until now TopStar served as distributor and a content provider, but private broadcasting stations and opposition lawmakers argued this was against the country's digital migration policy and the spirit of competition in the broadcasting sector.

The CCPC has handed the role of content provider to the ZNBC and directed TopStar to to ensure that all signal distribution pricing decisions and tariffs are approved by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).

CCPC chairperson Kelvin Bwalya Fube said the decision to split TopStar's functions was made in the public interest because having the company control both signal and content would have given it unfair advantage over competitors in the market.

Fube said the CCPC believes allowing a private company to control content was putting the security of the country at risk because the commission was not sure what the private company was going to be doing with the content.

"So as a board, we decided that the distribution of the signal will be done by TopStar while the content on the other hand will be controlled by ZNBC. TopStar controlling both signal distribution and content rises security issues to us," said Fube.