Editorial: MultiChoice just doesn’t get it

When MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela addressed the media this week, he was contrite. There had been “mistakes”, he said.

But we’re no clearer about what exactly those mistakes were, except for MultiChoice’s apparent failing to anticipate public anger over its dealings with the Gupta family.

However, we should be clear: MultiChoice has not just made mistakes. MultiChoice engaged wilfully in actions that, in a court of law, could amount to bribery and other financial crimes, including a creative attempt at state capture. Remember, it allegedly offered the SABC a bribe to support a policy that would profit MultiChoice.

MultiChoice also insists none of its executives can be held accountable for its mistakes because they were all acting in the best interests of the company.

The thing is, the best interests of MultiChoice are not the best interests of South Africa, or of the rule of law. So, no, MultiChoice does not get to say “oopsie” and hope we will forget all about this. We cannot allow the real issues to be buried under the avalanche of excruciating moralism over the decision to can its deal with ANN7. As MultiChoice is a subsidiary of a listed entity, its directors should be brought to book.

Also, it cannot get away with adding in a throwaway line about “lobbying” — insisting that all its engagements with the government about digital migration amounted to lobbying, and then piously promising to set guidelines for lobbying in the future. This does not do it for us, either.

And let’s be very clear — cutting off ANN7 is not penance. Rather, it is an obfuscation of MultiChoice’s own culpability in hindering the development of South Africa.

This entire controversy began with MultiChoice’s opposition to digital encryption, which would have opened up the broadcasting space and increased the number, and enhanced the quality, of the news products available. Now, because of public sentiment, MultiChoice is ready to cut off ANN7, a news broadcaster it once championed.

In December, the Mail & Guardian revealed that, in 2013, MultiChoice had threatened to drop eNCA from its DStv platform if e.tv did not end its pursuit of encrypted set-top boxes. MultiChoice chief executive Imtiaz Patel warned that it would do this when its eNCA contract came up for renewal. This was confirmed by Yunus Carrim, who had been communications minister at the time, and three sources privy to the negotiations.

Now that the tides have turned, MultiChoice is ready to cull ANN7 to make itself look better.


But there is nothing to celebrate about MultiChoice doing this. It is not a revolutionary reaction to state capture, the Guptas or Jacob Zuma. Rather, it is a danger for democracy. After all, our democracy ought not be so fragile that it cannot withstand ANN7’s shitty journalism.

And if the shitty journalism was indeed so shitty that it posed a threat to South Africans, the rule of law or democracy, then the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa ought to ensure that basic standards of broadcasting are upheld. But it’s not MultiChoice that should be deciding what we can or cannot let pass for news.

And that’s where this whole problem stems from — MultiChoice is far too powerful for its own good. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday