ANN7 sacrificed to save MultiChoice ‘mistake-men’

NEWS ANALYSIS

MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela was clear — there had been “mistakes”.

In the first minutes of describing an investigation into his company’s relationship with the Gupta-created news channel ANN7, Mawela used that word five times. He rolled it out again while answering questions during a media briefing on Wednesday.

MultiChoice was equally clear about the consequences — when ANN7’s contract ends in August, it will be dropped from DStv.

But how the one flows from the other was less clear. The “mistakes” were made by MultiChoice management, not by ANN7.

MultiChoice had nothing to say about the quality of ANN7 or the number of viewers it attracts. It did not dispute new owner Mzwanele Manyi’s claims that all ties with the controversial Gupta family had been cut. It did not dispute the need for an alternative voice in television news — it said it would replace ANN7 to fill just that need.

The only hint of an explanation for dropping ANN7 came in a carefully worded statement prepared for Mawela.

“This has been a humbling experience for MultiChoice,” he said of the internal investigation, which found no wrongdoing and pointed to no culprits. “While we entered into an agreement for the ANN7 channel at a time that the extent of state capture was unknown, we fully understand the outrage of the public regarding endemic corruption in our country and accept we should have dealt with the concerns around ANN7 far more swiftly.”

ANN7, it seems, is to be sacrificed on the altar of public perception.

MultiChoice made no similar offering from within its ranks. It defended its executives, who acted collectively (which “materially reduces the risk of corrupt activity”) or “in the interests of the company”.

It made no concessions of wrongdoing more serious than failing to anticipate public anger. Not even when it comes to what seems, in the colloquial sense, like its very own attempt at state capture when it offered the SABC a bribe to adopt a policy that would profit MultiChoice.

The MultiChoice board did not include the company’s dealings with the SABC in its internal review of the ANN7 relationship.

But, yes, Mawela confirmed, as leaked documents showed, MultiChoice had demanded that the SABC oppose a policy that would allow for the encryption of digital terrestrial broadcasts, which would allow for the creation of pay channels in direct competition to the DStv offering. That policy position was a condition to a contract that would land the SABC a then urgently needed cash injection.

MultiChoice had always been clear that encryption is “not in the public interest, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money”, Mawela said.

So a requirement that the SABC oppose it was written into a contract. “And the SABC decided of its own accord that it accepts the provision.”

Mawela said he was baffled by efforts to link the negotiations (in which MultiChoice demanded the encryption provision) and the encryption issue.

The MultiChoice board said one weakness its investigation showed up was the lack of a formal policy on lobbying, which would have applied to issues such as digital encryption. It would now develop such guidelines.

This will be done by management, which still sees no problem with offering a struggling state institution money — on condition that it does what is best for MultiChoice.

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author
Advertisting

The business of unfinished business

Physical and psychological violence will continue unless we self-reflect on our apartheid scars

Coronavirus: South Africa will evacuate citizens from Wuhan

The government is expected to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated

Primedia CEO Essack leaves following internal battles

Omar Essack leaves the 702 and 94.7 owners after a protracted standoff with the board

‘We’re satisfied with SA’s land reform policy’— US Ambassador

Top US official is lobbying multinational firms to invest in South Africa

Press Releases

Tourism can push Africa onto a new path – minister

The continent is fast becoming a dynamic sought-after tourist destination

South Africa’s education system is broken and unequal, and must be fixed without further delay

The Amnesty International report found that the South African government continues to miss its own education upgrading targets

Business travel industry generates billions

Meetings Africa is ready to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity

Conferences connect people to ideas

The World Expo and Meetings Africa are all about stimulating innovation – and income

SAB Zenzele Kabili B-BBEE share scheme

New scheme to be launched following the biggest B-BBEE FMCG payout in South Africa’s history

Digging deep

Automation is unstoppable, but if we're strategic about its implementation, it presents major opportunities

TFSAs are the gymnasts of the retirement savings world

The idea is to get South Africans to save, but it's best to do your research first to find out if a TFSA is really suited to your needs

Achieving the litmus test of social relevance

The HSS Awards honours scholarly works based on their social relevance and contribution to the humanities and social sciences