The Gupta-founded news channel ANN7 will no longer be broadcast on DStv when its contract expires in June next year.
That’s according to an impeccably placed source in the news broadcast industry who does not wish to be named.
Their account was supported by a second source, who also did not want to be named and who would not comment further, but confirmed various meetings where pay TV market leader MultiChoice and various advisers decided that they would not be renewing the contract of ANN7 when it expires in June next year.
The decision is said to be driven, in part, by concerns over the reputational damage the Gupta-founded news channel is causing the MultiChoice brand.
Other reasons include ethical considerations – driven by views that the channel was biased and promoting a factional agenda in which individuals were being targeted for attack – as well as commercial considerations and concerns about production quality.
“They would do it sooner, but don’t want a protracted court case,” claimed the source, who said that the decision apparently had to do with more than just the public campaign urging viewers to cancel their DStv subscriptions after news circulated that the pay TV operator was paying at least R50 million a year for ANN7.
Jackie Rakitla, the general manager for corporate affairs at MultiChoice, was unwilling to discuss the claims that ANN7 would be axed, saying: “We cannot comment on the terms of the contract, including the duration of the agreement, as it is subject to confidentiality clauses … We have not been approached by the owners of ANN7 for the renewal of the contract and we are not in negotiations for the renewal of that contract.
“Timelines for negotiations for the renewal of contracts vary from contract to contract and are dictated by different circumstances. As we have stated previously, DStv is a platform that relays many local and international news channels, representing a wide spectrum of views … We do not have editorial control or any involvement in running the operations of any of these news channels, including ANN7. We are, furthermore, unable to cancel a contract before its expiry, unless there is a clear breach of that contract.”
Approached for comment, Mzwanele Manyi, the new owner of Gupta media empire Infinity Media, was unfazed. “I do not believe that MultiChoice would discuss confidential contractual issues with third parties as it would be unethical to do so. You are on a desperate fishing expedition,” he said via SMS.
Manyi spent a lively week on Twitter lambasting critics of his news operations, ANN7 and The New Age newspaper.
BAD QUALITY, BAD REPUTATION
“Many see ANN7 as no longer a news channel, but a platform for internal factional battles within the ANC,” said the source, adding that MultiChoice was concerned that ANN7 was being used as a space for personal attacks on the president’s critics. The names raised most prominently in this regard were former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and former deputy minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom.
Hanekom took ANN7 to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA two months ago, accusing ANN7 of broadcasting false and defamatory information about him during a panel discussion. One of the panellists claimed that former president Nelson Mandela had said that Hanekom was an apartheid agent. Hanekom won the case.
“I believe there are many other reasons, too,” said the source. The channel is also not performing as well as it needs to commercially, and it is technically poor with low screen value.”
While some commentators have called for the channel to remain rather than be censored, its performance figures are poor. It steadily commands only about 10% of DStv’s total news audience, with the SABC’s news channel managing almost double that and eNCA hogging the lion’s share of viewers, with more than 50% of the audience.
The source also said it was common knowledge at MultiChoice that Manyi had not made contact with the operator to introduce himself or talk about the future of ANN7 since he took over Infinity Media in August.
“MultiChoice was notified of the change of ownership, but Manyi has never been to see them,” the source said.
City Press has previously reported that ANN7, which has a service only on DStv, is heavily reliant on MultiChoice funds.
The sources said that, at first, MultiChoice was happy to bring on board a new voice because “eNCA was seen by some as pro-DA, and SABC was representing parts of the ANC”, but the channel was now causing more damage than anything else.