Tuesday, December 26, 2017

MultiChoice Zambia abruptly drops lawsuit against StarTimes, ZNBC and the Zambian government in its fight over the removal of free-to-air channels from GOtv Zambia.

In a surprising move, MultiChoice Zambia has abruptly dropped its lawsuit against the Zambian government, China's StarTimes and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation over the removal of free-to-air channels from MultiChoice's GOtv digital terrestrial TV (DTT) platform.

At issue was and is the shocking removal of free-to-air TV channels, supplied by Zambia's state broadcaster, to pay-TV operators - and specifically to MultiChoice (and its GOtv Zambia offering).

It happened because China's StarTimes took a 60% shareholding in the new digital terrestrial television (DTT) joint venture, TopStar Limited, created between Zambia's state-run broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and China's StarTimes.

TopStar with its 60% stake in ZNBC as a supposedly national broadcaster, gets to collect all ZNBC advertising revenue as well as digital terrestrial tower rental revenue for a whopping 25 years in the highly controversial deal.

Because China's StarTimes as a commercial company suddenly had this massive corporate interest in Zambia's national broadcaster, the ZNBC yanked its free-to-air channels off of MultiChoice to rather give it to StarTimes for its DTT set-top box (STB).

Hilariously, the Zambian government and the ZNBC still claimed that the media lied about a private "take-over"of Zambia's national broadcaster, although that is exactly what has been happening after over 400 000 GOtv pay-TV subscribers in Zambia overnight lost access to several free-to-air channels.

MultiChoice Zambia through its GOtv Zambia entity decided to take the Zambia government, TopStar (meaning StarTimes) and the ZNBC to court to get the free-to-air channels restored.

Now MultiChoice Zambia decided to end the court action - after it first sought an urgent interdict in the Lusaka High Court earlier in 2017 to block ZNBC from removing its free-to-air channels from GOtv, and after the court found that the court case must proceed since MultiChoice Zambia showed sufficient grounds for a court case to proceed.

TopStar (meaning StarTimes and ZNBC) wanted the case dismissed and MultiChoice Zambia now wants to find a way to settle the case out of court. It's not clear why.