Africa News Network7 (ANN7) is the product of a Gupta family partnership with Duduzane Zuma .
It is being launched under the umbrella of Infinity Media – a joint venture between India's Essel Media and the Gupta firm Oakbay Investments.
The 24-hour channel on DStv received a prime-time slot on SABC.
The channel follows on the launch of the SABC's own 24-hour channel earlier this month, which was widely panned. ANN7's pilot on Wednesday evening too was met with some rather mixed reactions from the Twitter-sphere:
Think #ANN7 just outdid SABC with first broadcast glitch: dead air plus background chatter
— Ranjeni Munusamy (@RanjeniM) August 21, 2013
And now we watch the Guptas eat. It's like a New Age Business Dinner #ANN7
— Rebecca Davis (@becsplanb) August 21, 2013
Zuma on Gupta News Channel: "Finally a total separation of journalism and the news"
— Mndeni Nzimande (@Mndeni_N) August 21, 2013
Oh I get it. It's a concert. Cool. #ANN7
— Noma Radebe (@nomalizweradebe) August 21, 2013
— Reuben Goldberg (@RubyGold) August 21, 2013
Others were kinder about the fledgling news channel:
Glitches aside, I'm excited by what #ANN7's promos are suggesting about its Africa coverage: it's time we became part of our continent!
— Kristen van Schie (@kristenvanschie) August 21, 2013
The graphics on #ANN7 look really promising. We'll see if the content is equally impressive.
— Dr. Rev. Prof. No. 1 (@LeboMokwena) August 21, 2013
Both ANN7 and the SABC are perceived to be sympathetic to Zuma and his government. One of the Guptas' empowerment partners is Zuma's son, Duduzane, who, with Rajesh Gupta, is a director of Mabengela Investments and sits on the board of directors of JIC Mining with Rajesh, the Mail & Guardian previously reported.
The fiasco in May when the Guptas' wedding plane landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base – after being denied permission by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – appears not to have dampened their working relationship with the SABC.
But controversy over free screenings by the public broadcaster of business breakfast events hosted by the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper continues, as state-owned companies have paid millions of rands to bankroll the breakfasts.
SABC's acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng has previously defended the SABC's involvement with the Guptas. He said the SABC would happily trade news content with ANN7, if requested, just as it would with other broadcasters.