Naspers Ltd.’s South African TV unit won’t renew a contract with a 24-hour news station formerly controlled by the politically connected Gupta family and pledged to pay closer attention to channel ownership in the future.
I’m all for freedom of the media and the existence of a diversity of views. But surely there should be a zero-tolerance level in our democracy for an out-and-out propaganda television channel that was created solely for one purpose: to vehemently defend the Guptas and Zumas with fake news. The reality is that ANN7 can continue broadcasting into the future, despite MultiChoice pulling the plug come August 2018. There are other local satellite providers to choose from and ANN7 already streams on YouTube. But MultiChoice is wisely dodging further bullets by letting the contract with ANN7 lapse – it gives the Gupta-linked television channel time to make alternative plans. The news that ANN7 will be replaced with a new, local black-owned news station on the DStv bouquet should also be welcome. Hopefully, many lessons would have been learned from the ANN7 debacle. – Gareth van Zyl
Multichoice should have acted more swiftly when concerns were first raised about ANN7’s relationship with the Guptas, who are accused of using their friendship with President Jacob Zuma to win lucrative state contracts. However, the TV provider’s shortcomings do not extend to corruption or illegal activity, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
“There has been management failure,” Naspers Chief Executive Officer Bob Van Dijk told reporters in Johannesburg. “Mistakes were made and we need to relook at processes. No individuals will be fired over the matter.”
— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) January 31, 2018
Naspers, Africa’s biggest company by market value, last month started an internal probe into its dealings with ANN7. That followed reports in South African media that Multichoice had a corrupt relationship with the Guptas, who sold the channel last year and have denied any wrongdoing. ANN7’s contract will expire in August and Multichoice will open bidding for a replacement.
Payments made to ANN7, including an upfront 25 million Rand ($2.1 million) in 2015, were “neither abnormal or unusual” when negotiating with TV channels about broadcasting on a network, Multichoice said. All relevant contracts were reviewed by the company and attorneys Webber Wentzel.
By Loni Prinsloo/BizNews