GOtv must come back

HARARE - We welcome MultiChoice Africa’s intention to reach an agreement with government on the re-opening of GOtv which was abruptly switched off in January following shareholder differences.

At the time of the switch off, many Zimbabweans were increasingly warming up to the digital terrestrial television service in which government, represented by Transmedia, owned a 30 percent stake while MultiChoice Africa and Skynet controlled 60 and 10 percent respectively.

The television service offered a bouquet of 26 channels to ordinary Zimbabweans at a low monthly cost of $6,50. As part of the original shareholder agreement, commission realised from GOtv subscription was earmarked to help our cash-strapped government to finance the national digitalisation programme in line with the 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

We were stunned when government pulled the plug on GOtv barely a year into its existence since it was viewed by many as a good example of a workable public-private sector partnership. Against the backdrop of financial challenges being faced by the government, the GOtv model provided an innovative method of raising funds to finance the country’s digitalisation programme which is currently lagging behind international standards.

If the GOtv public-private sector partnership had succeeded, it was going to encourage other private entities to invest in critical areas requiring urgent funding but which are unable to take off because of the government’s well-documented financial problems.

The GOtv venture also justifies the need to come up with a flexible indigenisation policy that responds to different realities. For example, in the GOtv venture before it was switched off, funding was not provided by the Zimbabwe government but by MultiChoice Africa.

If indeed MultiChoice Africa provided funding for GOtv, it would be unfair for the government to demand a controlling stake. We hope government will be more flexible as it re-negotiates with the other GOtv shareholders on the comeback of the digital terrestrial television service.

The new negotiations must promote the interests of the disenfranchised Gotv subscribers who were abruptly denied a service that they had paid for. Although the subscribers were migrated to the Dstv platform as a compensatory measure, the truth of the matter is that they were denied a television service that they could afford.

Given the need to give Zimbabweans access to more television services other that ZBC-TV and Dstv, we urge government and its GOtv partners to do everything possible to ensure that the television service makes a quick comeback.

Comments (1)

I disagree that it is unfair if M/Choice provided funding and government had a controlling stake. It is only in other countries you provide 100% funding and control 100%. Govt controls 51% (on behalf of the previously dis-empowered of course)

John Banda - 28 June 2014

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