Wesley Diphoko, Head of the Independent Digital Lab (02 June 2017)
CAPE TOWN - This column on December 1, 2017, indicated that it was a matter of time before ANN7 was switched off by Naspers MultiChoice platform.

On Wednesday, we became aware that those days are less than 300, as MultiChoice promised to shut down ANN7 by August 2018.

Also read: OPINION: What media houses can do to avoid being shut down

We now have another Day Zero (the point at which a black-owned news channel will be no more).

No matter how much South African society may disagree with Mzwanele Manyi and the family that is backing him, the looming Day Zero for the news channel should be fought with the same vigour with which the water Day Zero is being fought in Cape Town. Everything should be done to avoid a closure of a media entity.

It should be understood that if it can happen to ANN7 it can also happen to ENCA and such a situation should never be allowed in a democracy.

In fact, even a media entity that will replace ANN7 will also be vulnerable if they don’t meet the MultiChoice standards of what is good.

At this point, it is important to reflect on what could bring us to Day Zero of a news channel, and that is the dominance of Naspers’s MultiChoice.

This situation should lead to quick action on moving towards digital migration, which will allow for more players in the area that is currently dominated by Naspers.

South Africans are poorer when a single company can decide to shutdown a news channel and therefore limit the diversity of views that can be expressed in society.

The next black-owned news channel should not fall into the same trap of being dependent on a platform owned by another company.

This should happen whether the government moves fast with the digital migration process or not.

As Naspers MultiChoice has indicated that they will call upon black-owned news company to close the gap that will be left by ANN7, the next player (even ANN7) should build a resilient platform that cannot be destroyed.

A resilient platform is designed for emergency situations to ensure that the business does not go down in case of a disaster or disturbance of any nature.

In case of ANN7 this may mean doing something now to ensure continuity beyond August 2018.

As for the potential news channel that may replace ANN7 it should also consider building a resilient platform.

The resilient platform for a news platform may include an online platform from which its content can be sourced.

Such a platform will have to enable streaming service to allow desktop and mobile access of the channel.

Beyond the online platform such a channel would have to distribute its content on all following platforms:

(1) MultiChoice

(2) iOS

(3) Android

(4) YouTube

MultiChoice

The future news channel should never consider MultiChoice as its only environment to exist.

It should treat MultiChoice as just another distribution channel. In case MultiChoice shuts them down for any reason, the iOS, Android and online version will still be in existence.

iOS

The news channel would have to exist on the iOS platform as well in the form of apps that can distribute its content.

iOS is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple exclusively for its hardware. It is the operating system that presently powers many of the company’s mobile devices, including the iPhone, and iPad. It is the second most popular mobile operating system globally after Android.

Android

In the African continent existence on Android is mandatory for any media player that seeks to reach the mobile audience.

Android is a mobile operating system that is developed by Google, based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and other open source software and designed primarily for touch screen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

In addition, Google has further developed Android TV for televisions and Android Auto for cars. An app that can work on devices that use Android will be a must to reach larger audiences.

YouTube

Another Google product that can sustain and enable distribution is YouTube.

YouTube allows users to upload, view, rate, share, add to favourites, report, comment on videos, and subscribe to other users.

It offers a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media videos.

Available content includes video clips, TV show clips, music videos, short and documentary films, audio recordings, movie trailers, live streams, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos.

Most of the content on YouTube is uploaded by individuals.

Yet media corporations, including CBS, the BBC, Vevo, and Hulu, offer some of their material via YouTube as part of the YouTube partnership programme.

ANN7 and the new entrant can consider this option as well in addition to everything else that they do to maintain their existence.

The key going forward is to ensure that a dominant player in the market is never allowed to destruct others.

This is a role for policy makers.

However, media companies should also create their own ways to survive and play without being dictated to by dominant players.

Wesley Diphoko is the founder of Kaya Labs and the current chairperson of the IEEE Industry Connections on Open Data in South Africa.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Independent Group.

- BUSINESS REPORT