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Hundreds of families living in rural villages in South Africa will soon have unlimited access to free satellite TV, courtesy of the Chinese government.

In 2015, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government launched an initiative to provide access to satellite TV for “10 000 African villages” on the continent in a bid to improve access to information on the continent. South Africa is one of the beneficiaries.

While there is still some work to do, the Chinese government expects the project, which falls under the Chinese media group StarTimes (known as StarSat in South Africa) to be completed by the end of the year. Viewers will have access to sporting events around the world, including exclusive coverage of the German football league Bundesliga, Italian league Serie A, popular children’s channels, news channels, music channels, several education channels, as well as several movie and entertainment channels.

Pang XinXin, the president of the StarTimes Group, said his company was committed to ensuring Africa was digitally switched on in the era of smart technology.

“In the shortest time possible, we’d like to see uninterrupted access to satellite television for millions of people when this project is completed,” XinXin told the Saturday Star during a media briefing at the Fourth Forum on China-Africa Media co-operation last week.

The South African government is working closely with the Chinese embassy in South Africa to monitor the progress of the project. If everything goes smoothly, the project, which is due to start in July, will be fully operational by the end of the year. A total of 1000 villages in South Africa will benefit from the project, known as Access to Satellite TV for 10000 African Villages.

“Each village will be aided with two StarTimes Projector TVs, one 32 inch Digital TV set and 20 DTH decoders and satellite dishes,” said XinXin.

Projector TVs and Digital TV set will be equipped with solar power systems and DTH access units.

"The Projector TVs and Digital TV set will be laid out in the public area of the village, like school or village clinic, which could allow all villagers, especially kids, to enjoy the wonderful digital TV programmes,” XinXin said.

“The projector TVs and digital TV that are laid out in public areas will be open to all villagers permanently for free."

XinXin was not able to pinpoint exactly which villages in South Africa would be the beneficiaries of the project

He explained that as a China-Africa co-operation project, StarTimes was merely the contractor and would implement the project guided by both governments.

“The list of villages will be finally decided by the South African government,” he stated.

The project will also create jobs in the villages, according to XinXin.

“We will need people based in these certain villages to handle the repairs and maintenance. So StarTimes will train a handful of people from each village to deal with these issues.”

XinXin said that the Access to Satellite TV for 10 000 African Villages project was a major initiative in media co-operation between China and Africa.

“It is designed to popularise digital television for rural areas in Africa, thus of great significance for the deep coverage of radio and television, breaking information barriers, strengthening quality-oriented education of the people, and promoting social progress.

“Moreover, programmes on the Access to Satellite TV for 10000 African Villages platform will further facilitate mutual understanding between the Chinese and African people (and) consolidate the social foundation for co-operation.”

XinXin said his company was honoured to roll out the project. “Enabling more African rural families to watch satellite TV is highly in accordance with StarTimes’ corporate vision: To ensure that every African family can access, afford, watch and share the beauty of digital TV.

“The project will open a window for rural families to learn about the outside world. To popularise satellite TV in African rural areas, in which information resources are limited, will help people there to learn knowledge and get rid of poverty.”

He said StarTimes would expand its reach in African rural areas, “enabling more rural villagers to enjoy the beauty of digital TV”.

The Saturday Star