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By Makhosandile Zulu


Yunus Carrim calls SABC and MultiChoice merger ‘regulatory and policy’ capture

The former minister of communications says certain terms within the agreement crippled the public broadcaster.

The former minister of communications, Yunus Carrim, on Tuesday called the 2013 merger between MultiChoice and the SABC “regulatory and policy capture”.

Carrim took the witness stand at the commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice was signed about a week before Carrim was appointed as minister of communications, the commission heard.

He told the commission that he served as the minister of communications for 10 months, starting in 2013 to 2014.

Carrim told Zondo that the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy was government policy first introduced and adopted by cabinet in 2008.

Through the policy, the government wanted to diversify, encourage competition, bring in African entrants and transform the pay-TV sector, which was monopolised by MultiChoice and Naspers, Carrim said.

However, he told the commission that stakeholders could not reach an agreement on the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy.

Carrim said that on the one side, e-TV had threatened to take the government to court if it did not proceed with encryption, while on the other side MultiChoice and other stakeholders threatened similar action if the government did.

ALSO READ: Former SABC CEO claims she was ‘pushed out’ for going against MultiChoice deal

Carrim took issue with an advertisement MultiChoice ran at the time which he said targeted him on the policy of encryption, saying the newspaper advertisements implied that the policy was solely his and that he represented e-TV’s interests.

Carrim said certain terms within the agreement between the public broadcaster and MultiChoice crippled the former.

He said he had gone through voluminous minutes to SABC board meetings and could not find a thing on where the board took a decision on signing the agreement with MultiChoice.

Carrim told the commission about rumours of his removal which started circulating months before he was actually removed as minister.

He told the commission that during a trip to Davos in January 2014, a businessman approached him to tell him that he would be removed because he was taking on a large corporation, Naspers, and its chair, Koos Bekker.

He said a number of people had conveyed to him that the then COO at SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had said that he would get rid of him, Carrim, as he had done with the board at the time.

Carrim told the commission that two weeks before he was removed as a minister, Motsoeneng and others allegedly held a party to celebrate the fact that he would not be reappointed.

Carrim said another issue with the agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice was that the latter was granted access to the archives of the public broadcaster with no apparent benefit to the corporation.

He said it was not only stunning that a decision was taken to forgo encryption without the board’s approval but that MultiChoice was granted access to the SABC’s archives.

Carrim said MultiChoice substantially reduced the monetary value of the SABC’s archives.

He said the problem was that a private corporation was deciding for the government and the SABC on forgoing policy on encryption, which he said amounts to “regulatory and policy capture”.

“This for me … is a very clear example of regulatory policy capture, whereby through irregular means you shape government policy,” Carrim said.

He said MultiChoice has never been able to give a clear answer on why encryption should be foregone.

ALSO READ: MultiChoice found to have ‘captured’ SABC through ‘merger’

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