Information and Broadcasting Minister Dora Siliya says she will study how the creation of Topstar has negatively affected private broadcasters before responding to their grievances.

Recently, the Zambia Independent Broadcasters Association (ZIBA) accused government of trying to use them to repay the US$282 million digital migration loan through exorbitant prices.

The association members who are mostly private TV broadcasters asked Topstar to find ways of repaying the loan without involving its members.

They charged that Topstar was trying to make local broadcasters repay the loan by charging them exorbitant fees.

“Star Times vice president Andrew Dearham upon realizing how serious private broadcasters were, he attempted to blame the people who were handling the digital migration project, but ZIBA members quickly pointed out a few problems which did not need government role, like running Topstar ads scrolls on top of every channel on Toptar, revenue sharing and failure to provide monitoring decoders at broadcasters studios. Private broadcasters have put Topstar on the shortlist if they won’t get results in few days, then Topstar will remain with ZNBC and Kunfu channels,” one of the aggrieved ZIBA members said.

“The minister could not specify what measure she would employ to attend to this matter diligently. Her predecessor Mulenga Kampamba also lamentably failed to attend to the matter despite agreeing to meet media owners earlier before cancelling on the eleventh hour citing busy schedule. Media owners firmly stated that content on Topstar has to be paid for without fail or the plug will be pulled. Strangely the current minister of information did not touch the issue of the loan or anything to do with carriage fee as demanded by Topstar.”

But in an interview, Siliya said she would study how the creation of Topstar had affected private broadcasters as it was not government’s intention to stifle private media development.

“It is not the intention of government to stifle for the development of private media. Digital migration policy is one thing but on the same thing on the other hand, we have a responsibility to see the private media in this country grow. And I have committed to the private TV owners association that I am going to study this matter very carefully and see how the creation of Topstar has either affected them positively or negatively before I respond to them,” said Siliya.

“I did indeed meet with private TV owners association and they raised a number of issues including that they felt that Topstar had a conflict of interest because of involvement by ZNBC, that indeed Topstar was not allowing free to air channels at the moment as they were encrypted and that by their nature, they felt that free to air channels should be free indeed. I did promise that I had heard them and that I will be meeting very soon with all stakeholders, the IBA, ZNBC, and Topstar so that we can find a logical conclusion on this matter.”