File image: Independent UK.

CAPE TOWN - Following their decision to discontinue its contract with formerly Gupta-owned news channel, ANN7,the biggest pay-TV provider in Africa, MultiChoice is now inviting bidders to occupy the channel. 

According to MultiChoice, their decision not to renew their contract with ANN7 which expires in August 2018, was due to concern of undue diligence. 

The group also said that there had been mistakes in the past but they deny any corruption or wrong-doing in their alliance with ANN7. 

For that reason, their separation from ANN7 is seen as a bid to renew their reputation. 

“MultiChoice South Africa is inviting anyone interested in bidding for its proposed new 24-hour black-owned news channel, to register their intention to bid to produce and operate the channel,” it said in a statement.

The group calls on all interested parties to refer to the company’s website with an intention to bid.

However, there are particular prerequisites which the winning bidder will be evaluated on. 

The winning bidder has to be black owned and produce a primarily English-language news channel “that takes into account the history, diversity of cultural background, languages and socioeconomic circumstances in South Africa”.

They emphasised that this invitation extends only to those parties who have an intention to bid. 

Other guidelines which the new channel should conform to is to provide anchor-based, live broadcasts in the style of Al Jazeera, SABC News, eNCA, Sky News and CNN. 

The focus of the new channel should be national, regional, local and African news. 

The news should also cover actuality, current affairs, sport and maintain a slight focus on international news. 

The other criteria that bidders should consider is to include a key focus on training and development of news. 

This focus should extend to industry personnel and it should promote “strong ownership mentality with employees and partners through mechanisms such as employee equity and incentive schemes”.

The channel has to be strictly “independent, non-partisan, unbiased and critical”, however the broadcaster will not have editorial control or ownership. 

The winning bidder can in turn, expect wide distribution on the DStb bouquets and will also receive funding from MultiChoice and “other sources”. 

“This invitation is only to register an intention to bid, so MultiChoice can assess the level of interest. A further, formal invitation to submit bids with details of the process and further guidelines will be shared in mid-February.”

READ ALSO: MultiChoice, union join forces to mitigate ANN7 job losses

Meanwhile, MultiChoice and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Wednesday that they would work together to mitigate job losses at ANN7.

According to Wednesday’s press release, issued by MultiChoice and CWU, the parties met on Tuesday as CWU "wanted to understand the rationale for MultiChoice's decision".

"The union’s primary concern is possible job losses at ANN7 and [CWU] wanted to know what steps MultiChoice will be taking in this regard.”

An agreement was made to set up a team to work on “practical solutions” to mitigate job losses, according to the press release, and to see how ANN7 employees could be “redeployed” to the new black-owned channel, which is yet to be commissioned.

MultiChoice also told the union that it would not interfere with the editorial policies of the new channel and both parties reiterated their commitment to diversity.

“We’re committed to job creation and making significant investments to grow our industry in a positive and meaningful way. That is one of the reasons why we’re commissioning this new news channel,” said MultiChoice South Africa CEO Calvo Mawela.

Former government spin-doctor Mzwanele Manyi bought ANN7 from the controversial Gupta family last year. The Guptas have been implicated in so-called state capture, whereby they are accused of landing lucrative government contracts because of their relationship with President Jacob Zuma and his son, Duduzane, who works with the Guptas.

Some, mostly corporate-owned media houses, and civil society groups regard ANN7 as a mouthpiece for a faction within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that is sympathetic to president Zuma and pushes the agenda of the head of state.

Despite this, several of those same media houses or journalists working there strongly criticised MultiChoice’s axing of the channel, saying it amounted to censorship. Others stated it was good riddance.

ALSO READ: 'MultiChoice dumping ANN7 smacks of arrogance'

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