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Battle for Zambia's airwaves continues

Battle for Zambia's airwaves continues

A Zambian High Court has dismissed an interim injunction ordering the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and Chinese digital service provider TopStar Communications from disconnecting free-to-air services on the GOtv Zambia platform.

The alliance between ZNBC and TopStar had reportedly resulted in over 400,000 subscribers not being able to access local channels on MultiChoice's GOtv decoders.

Instead, the channels were being aired on TopStar-branded decoders being rolled out by the company.

This forced GOtv Zambia to seek an injunction restraining ZNBC and TopStar from interfering with the local channels until the matter was fully determined.

Lusaka High Court judge Gertrude Chawatama granted the injunction in February this year, but has now dismissed it.

This means that all the local channels airing as free-to-air will be disconnected from GOtv and will only air on TopStar decoders, despite the long standing agreement between ZNBC and GOtv regarding free-to-air channels.

In her ruling, Chawatama said the digital migration process was triggered by a decision of the Zambian government and not of ZNBC and TopStar.

"This was not a commitment made by ZNBC and TopStar but the Zambian government. If it was accepted that it was the country Zambia that was a signatory to the ITU, then the injunction sought by GOtv was aimed at the State. This being the case, the court has no power to grant an injunction against the State," said Chawatama.

TopStar owns a 60% stake in ZNBC, which means it is a public signal network and empowers the company to collect all ZNBC advertising and tower rental revenue for the next 25 years.


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