While the state capture propaganda machine ANN7 seems to be falling, losing its broadcast platform, MultiChoice must still come clean on its multi-million rand contract with the news channel in order to hold people accountable.
MultiChoice yesterday announced its decision to terminate the relationship in August, following concerns raised in the media about lucrative payments made to ANN7. In its declaration, MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela said this was a “humbling” moment for the entertainment platform, and admitted to mistakes being made.
He added, however, that there was no corruption in this regard. But according to media and anti-corruption commentators, MultiChoice still has a lot of explaining to do. Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University Anton Harber predicted The New Age newspaper would also face closure through its connections with the Guptas.
“How will this affect The New Age? I think this is the beginning of the end for this whole corrupt nexus,” he said.
“The Guptas’ gifting of these media assets to one of their friends was always a sham, a way of just getting rid of a growing burden.”
He was referring to Mzwanele Manyi, a known Gupta apologist, who owns The New Age.
“It was only viable as long as they or their friends subsidised it for political reasons, and I think that is coming to an end. They gave Mzwanele Manyi a hospital pass, and he was foolish enough to receive it.”
MultiChoice, Harber added “said too little to be convincing”.
“If they want us to believe that what they did fell short of corruption and illegality they need to tell us what they did, who was responsible and what actions have been taken as a result.
“They need to release the full report that reaches such an unlikely conclusion that seems contrary to the evidence and not keep it secret. Saying that you have been ‘humbled’ is not convincing – even if you say it repeatedly – unless you actually demonstrate openness, remorse and humility. I did not see that.”
Harber further expected MultiChoice to face “a rough time – and the possible loss of their licence – if the regulator, Icasa, is thorough in the investigation they have started”.
“Proper contrition and pre-emptive action today might have pre-empted Icasa and prevented them getting tough, but I cannot see that now.”
It was also “no great surprise” that MultiChoice was ditching a “half-baked, amateurish ANN7 channel”.
“It is no loss to the news media as it was not so much a news outlet as part of a corrupt three-way state capture conspiracy between MultiChoice, the Guptas and elements of government. It is sad for those who stand to lose their jobs, but I hope that the real journalists among them will find a place in one of the existing stations or at the new station that MultiChoice is promising.”
Opposition Undoing Tax Abuse chairperson Wayne Duvenage also accused MultiChoice of not being transparent enough and “not substantively explaining the rationale behind all the increases that were provided”.
“Too much favoured MultiChoice in all of this when money was exchanging hands. We are not sold. We believe an independent inquiry is required to get to the bottom of this,” said Duvenage.
He also believed the The New Age would fall next, as it would have less funds flowing to them from “so-called breakfasts and events from government’s advertising spend”.
“ANN7 will shortly close down and so too will The New Age. This group is doomed, and rightfully so.” Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird added that MultiChoice needed to show what their mistakes were.
“We need to be asking what the mistakes were? Please identify them and then we need to be clear on the deal. You are not renewing it, so make it public,” said Bird.
He said ANN7 may still opt to pursue a smaller operation on YouTube or another platform, but MultiChoice’s announcement that it will look to produce another black-owned news channel should be welcomed.
“If people are going to be angry with ANN7, they should be angry with its senior bosses and management.”