Johannesburg - Pay TV giant 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 SA chief executive Calvo Mawela announced on Wednesday that the R125 million deal to carry ANN7 would not be renewed when it expires in August.
”While we entered into an agreement for the ANN7 channel at a time when state capture was unknown, we fully understand the outrage of the public regarding endemic corruption in our country, and accept (that) we should have dealt with the concerns around ANN7 far more swiftly,” Mawela said.
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.
MultiChoice maintained that Patel acted in its best interests.
Tshabalala said the decision not to extend the contract demonstrated sheer arrogance of monopoly capital.
“MultiChoice employees who participated in the negotiating of the deal should have been disciplined by MultiChoice,” he added.
Bob van Dijk, the chief executive of Naspers - the majority shareholder in MultiChoice - said no action had been taken against any individual involved in the ANN7 deal, because it was a group of people who participated.
Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the government would not get involved in contractual matters between two private parties.
“I wish to express my disappoint- ment 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,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said ANN7’s dumping was a lesson to be learnt, as the government needed to look at how its policies were structured in relation to increasing the diversity of media ownership.
She said she was pleased by the progressive move by MultiChoice to find a new black-owned news channel to replace ANN7.
But Tshabalala accused MultiChoice of usurping the role of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
”We are disturbed that MultiChoice will choose the black-owned replacement (of ANN7),” he said.
Tshabalala said the CWU would hold discussions internally and engage MultiChoice.
DA MP Phumzile van Damme said its complaint to Icasa was never about whether ANN7 should be on air, but the exchange of money allegedly to influence government policy.
MultiChoice denied it entered into the agreement with ANN7 to influence state policy, saying the R25m advance payment it made to the then Gupta-owned TV channel was also paid to the SABC.
Icasa wants copies of the contracts MultiChoice signed with the SABC and ANN7, for its probe.
Van Damme said the DA will continue to fight for diversity in the media and root out where private interests try to manipulate policies.