The New Age has welcomed Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille's urgent request for an inquiry into the newspaper's funding.
"We would welcome the commission if it ends the ranting of Ms Zille about business practices which are normal in any course of business. We certainly have nothing to hide," the New Age's managing editor Gary Naidoo told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday evening.
"Again, we would challenge Ms Zille to accept that should the commission exonerate us as we expect that she will use the same platform she used to defame us to undo the unnecessary damage she has done to our small business."
In a media briefing on Wednesday, the Western Cape premier claimed the New Age is almost entirely funded by the ANC which accounts for 77% of its advertising revenue stream alone – despite the fact that it has no audited circulation figures.
"We have a growing number of private clients. However, as a new entrant, it is very difficult to get private clients for the first few years. We have never denied government being the biggest advertiser right now, but on a rand basis, government is the biggest advertiser in our market versus any other commercial advertiser," Naidoo said.
"I am not sure of the relevance of the Audit Bureau of Circulations question as we are transparent with all advertisers about our sales trend. Any serious advertiser is taken through our numbers to aid their decision to support us. We are currently undergoing a certification with Deloitte."
During the briefing, Zille pointed out that the newspaper has received at least R64.6-million from the government in the form of advertising revenue and "sponsorships" since December 2010.
Naidoo responded: "Earlier today we offered to undertake an independent audit to test Ms Zille's allegations. We challenged her to undertake to correct all the innuendo she has been spurting forth as truth once the audit verified that we had done nothing wrong. She has not replied to our offer."
Zille on Wednesday described the New Age's business breakfast platform as a "moneymaking racket" and a "fig-leaf" to cover a channelling of millions of rands of public money going to a private company of Zuma and ANC benefactors.
"Ms Zille has continuously sprouted this ridiculous nonsense," Naidoo said. "The sponsorship is used to cover marketing – post and pre-event – event management, catering, venue hire, audio visual costs. We have a team working full time on the event to ensure it runs as well as it does."
The Western Cape premier told journalists on Wednesday that she wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking for the appointment of the inquiry into the paper's funding.
She said that the commission of inquiry should establish how much of the New Age's overall revenue is derived from the state and the legality of using public money to fund a pro-government newspaper that was ostensibly started by a benefactor of Jacob Zuma and the ANC.