News / South Africa

Yadhana Jadoo
2 minute read
1 Dec 2017
6:00 am

M-Net denies foul play

Yadhana Jadoo

I attended that meeting ... and there’s nothing improper in those minutes.

Multichoice

MultiChoice has flatly denied it attended a “clandestine meeting” in which it paid kickbacks to the SA Broadcasting Corporation.

“MultiChoice notes the disparaging publicity arising from the release of the minutes of a meeting it had with the SABC board in 2013,” said MultiChoice executive chairperson Nolo Letele.

“I attended that meeting – it was certainly not secret and there is nothing illegal or improper in those minutes.”

This follows media reports on minutes from the meeting in which MultiChoice and M-Net paid the public broadcaster R100 million a year for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the public broadcaster’s political influence over digital migration.

“The meeting was held at the request of the SABC, on their premises, and like other SABC board meetings, was recorded. Top management and board members of both parties were represented,” said MultiChoice.

The pay-TV provider further pointed to one of its team saying, “We don’t normally pay for news channels” and “some strange motive is imputed – that MultiChoice made corrupt payments to the SABC simply for their support on non-encryption of set-top boxes”.

“This, among other statements, is commercial discussion, mere sales talk to manage financial expectations. It is well known that we pay for many news channels. SABC wanted MultiChoice to pay as much as possible and MultiChoice wanted to pay as little as possible.

“Selective reference is also made to the minutes. From the minutes it’s clear that the decision on encryption was not one the SABC could make. Ms LP Mokhobo (who chaired the meeting) makes this clear: ‘… this decision is really a government decision. The SABC has no power over it’.”

At the time there were two popular views on encryption, it said.

“Our view was well known. The contestation was fierce and both sides lobbied hard for their respective positions. The decision on encryption was made by government in policy. The minister’s policy decision was that of no encryption and led to extensive litigation ultimately ending in the Constitutional Court.”

It raised the court’s view on encryption in which it said that M-Net, unlike e.tv, “does not at all depend or seek to rely on government resources or set-top boxes in the furtherance of its private commercial interests”.

“MultiChoice has a long standing relationship with the SABC dating back to the early 1980s. The parties have bought and sold content from and to each other for years, and will continue to do so.”

Former communications minister Yunus Carrim was also quoted as saying: “…MultiChoice was seeking to change government policy to serve its own interests”, and he “…felt it wrong for a private company to seek to buy government policy in this way so it could retain their 98% dominance of the pay-TV sector”.

– yadhanaj@citizen.co.za

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