Channon Merricks.Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - An allegedly bogus news channel that has possibly ruined the careers of scores of journalists does not have a broadcast licence and will not be allowed to go live without it.

This was confirmed yesterday by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).

The news comes as Mzwanele Manyi’s newspaper, Afro Voice, which was formerly the Gupta-owned New Age, is undergoing liquidation, placing dozens of journalists and other staff in limbo.

Channon Merricks, who refers to himself as the managing director of Vila Kasi Holdings which supposedly owns the channel Vila Kasi, maintained that Vila Kasi would launch on the first day of next month - supposedly on DStv.

It was reported yesterday that about 90 employees and three independent contractors had claimed that Merricks allegedly duped them into joining his “scam” channel.

The three contractors - Blue Indian Pictures, Mackay Communications and Tebogo Rametse - said they were collectively owed well over R500 000.

Merricks refused to answer repeated questions about whether he had received or applied for a broadcasting licence from Icasa. Answering only through text messages, he invited reporters to attend the opening of the channel.

On the non-payment of employees and contractors, Merricks wrote: “Employees will be paid before the launch and they will be at work for the launch of the first independent, black-owned media house, Vila Kasi, registered in 2015.”

However, Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka dismissed Merricks’s statement, saying: “In terms of the law, no one is allowed to provide a broadcasting service without a broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa in terms of the Electronic Communications Act. Icasa is therefore not aware of any launch of any new broadcasting service in the name of Vila Kasi.”

Merricks allegedly conned workers and contractors by telling them he had been awarded a new channel on MultiChoice’s DStv platform to run a 24-hour news and entertainment channel.

Marietjie Groenewald, MultiChoice’s spokesperson, said this week the company was yet to announce a winning bidder for its new current affairs channel.

Yesterday, Groenewald said MultiChoice would apply to Icasa to authorise the new channel once it was announced.

Meanwhile, a document from Afro Tone Media Holdings, signed by its chairperson, Manyi, confirmed that Afro Voice newspaper had “no other alternative but to commence with liquidation proceedings”.

Manyi, in the note dated July 12, cited a “substantial decline in government and commercial advertising”, as well as “no sustainable prospects” for the financial rescue of the paper.

On an employees’ WhatsApp group chat at Afro Voice journalists questioned the legality of Manyi’s processes in closing the paper, which was provisionally announced last month. Aubrey Shabalala, general secretary of the Communications Workers’ Union, which represents the affected Afro Voice staff, said this week that the union would ensure workers received a fair deal.

Cavanagh and Richards Attorneys confirmed it was representing Afro Voice in the liquidation, but declined to comment further.

Saturday Star