CAPE TOWN - Following Multinational media group, Nasper’s announcement on Wednesday that it will not renew its contract with the news channel previously owned by the Gupta family, ANN7, we take a look at past events which saw scandal surround ANN7.
The move comes after speculation that the Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, had been accused of unduly influencing government.
According to the biggest paid for TV provider in SA, MultiChoice, an investigation allegedly found that the company had not done proper diligence on ANN7 but there was no corruption in its contract.
ANN7’s impropriety dates back to March 2016 when they along with the Gupta-owned newspaper, The New Age, where they were censured for its coverage of Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta’s.
In November last year, opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) went after MultiChoice for a R25 million ANN7 deal. This followed details that were revealed in the #Guptaleaks emails about payments made to MultiChoice.
The EFF said that they would refer MultiChoice to the Competition Commission in order for it to investigate how the company influenced policy on set-top boxes in favour of their market domination and the involvement of former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
The EFF also called on Parliament to hold an inquiry into the Gupta influence over the Minister of Communications.
"In this enquiry, companies like Multichoice must be held accountable publicly for their criminal activities in the sector, suppressing competition in favour of their domination," the EFF said.
A month later, American law firm, Pomerantz announced that they were investigating claims on behalf of Naspers Limited investors. The investigation followed concerns of whether Naspers and certain officers and directors had engaged in securities fraud or other unlawful business practices. This came after calls made by the DA towards the end of November for MultiChoice to publicly release the full details of the contract it entered into with Gupta-linked news network, ANN7. The party insisted that all records prior to contract negotiations should also be made public.
The DA said it would take the matter up with Independent Communications Authority of South Africa should MultiChoice not publish the information within 48 hours. According to the leaked Gupta emails, it was revealed that MultiChoice substantially increased its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m over the past two years.
More recently, MultiChoice yesterday revealed that it would not be renewing its contract with ANN7, saying that ANN7 was behind unduly influencing government. The Gupta family and Zuma has since denied any wrongdoing.
Pay TV said it will take on board a black-owned news channel that will broadcast independently with no fear and favours. Multichoice CEO, Calvi Mawela also told the press on Wednesday that they failed to perform a due diligence and reaffirmed that the ANN7 will not broadcast on the Dstv platform when the contract ends.
MultiChoice is also accused of increasing its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m in exchange for influence over the government’s position on the introduction of encrypted set-top boxes.
Meanwhile, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) confirmed it would investigate MultiChoice over allegations of kickbacks of R100 million to the SABC in exchange for the public broadcaster's political influence over digital migration.
South African government has since reacted to the news of ANN7’s dismissal. In a statement, Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that government will not get involved on contractual matters between two private parties.
"I wish to express my disappointment that the viewers of DStv will not have access to the diversity of voices that ANN7 has also contributed to the country's media landscape," Kubayi-Ngubane said.
"However, there is a lesson to be learned going forward in that, as government we need to look at how our current policies are structured in relation to increasing diversity of media ownership."
MultiChoice also said that in a bid to replace ANN7 on DStv, it was looking at finding a new black-owned news channel which represents the majority of people in South Africa, something that pleased Kubayi-Ngubane as a "progressive move". "It is imperative to ensure that there is diversity of media ownership bringing new and fresh perspective to the people of South Africa," Kubayi-Ngubane.
In the latest news, it has been brought to the attention of media that MultiChoice’s decision to dump ANN7 has angered the 24-hour television news channel’s staff, but the government insists it will not get involved in contractual matters between two private parties.
The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), which represents more than half the employees at the channel formerly owned by the controversial Guptas, said there was anxiety across the Midrand-based channel.
“This is very depressing news, and it’s disappointing,” CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala told The Star on Wednesday.
MultiChoice said its investigations did not find corruption and illegal activity, but it will not make the results of its probes public, because they contain “sensitive commercial information”.
The company said its former chief executive Imtiaz Patel’s “previous relationship” with the Guptas, which predates his employment at MultiChoice, played no role in the terms negotiated with ANN7.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE