Recent Gupta Leaks articles suggest MultiChoice paid kickbacks to the SABC and ANN7 to buy political influence to ensure set-top box encryption was dropped.
MultiChoice’s decision to increase its ANN7 channel payment from R50 million to R141 million per year is at the centre of this.
It is also alleged that MultiChoice paid kickbacks to the SABC totaling R100 million per year for its support on non-encryption.
“While some reporting is no doubt driven by an honorable wish to expose corruption, some of it is clearly intended to apply pressure on Naspers to force MultiChoice to take ANN7 off the air,” it said.
In an interview with The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield, Naspers chairman Koos Bekker focused on ANN7 being on DStv, rather than the company trying to influence government policy.
Many stakeholders argued this was a diversion tactic.
Former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim is one of these stakeholders, and has slated Naspers and MultiChoice’s behavior.
Carrim said in an interview with Business Day TV that he met with Bekker twice, and was in contact with him via SMS and calls.
He said Bekker, who was Naspers CEO at the time, played a big part in influencing government policy on set-top box encryption.
“His main purpose for seeking to meet me was to explain the folly of encryption,” said Carrim.
He said Bekker was dismissive of the need for competition in the pay-TV market, and that there was a need for a monopoly in certain cases.
With Bekker involved in MultiChoice matters at the time, it indicates that Naspers’ latest statement distancing itself from MultiChoice’s actions are disingenuous, said Carrim.
Although lobbying the government is normal, Carrim said this case was different.
He said MultiChoice used its agreement with the SABC to change government policy on conditional access and further its commercial interests.
“The only entity which benefitted from ensuring that [encryption] was dropped is MultiChoice. It prevented any competition to them,” said Carrim.
Carrim also alleged that MultiChoice created a camp in the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components to drive its agenda.
He said MultiChoice forced community TV operators to take a position on conditional access, or face being dropped from DStv.
Carrim urged independent investigations by Parliament, ICASA, and the Competition Commission into MultiChoice’s actions.
The interviews below detail the MultiChoice and Naspers saga.