Staff at Afro Worldview, formerly known as African News Network 7 or ANN7, have been left uncertain about their professional futures after MultiChoice ended its contract with the controversial TV channel on Monday.
Staff were informed that they should not report for duty until further notice as the channel ceased to exist at 23.59 on channel 405 of Multichoice’s DStv bouquet.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala told the Mail & Guardian that the union can now confirm that on August 28, MultiChoice will announce which broadcaster will take over the channel, which is now vacant.
Tshabalala said the union is still concerned about the reasons behind Afro Worldview being removed.
“If the channel was taken off air because of its editorial approach, then we are concerned because we believe in media freedom.
“If the station was removed as a political decision, especially because ANN7 was linked to the Guptas and they have been implicated in state capture allegations, then that’s a problem.”
Tshabalala says it is up to the consumers to decide what they want to watch.
“Freedom of choice is freedom of choice.”
These concerns were raised with MultiChoice, says Tshabalala. The pay-TV company however, said it was ending the contract with Afro Worldview because of its business model and not for political reasons.
During talks between MultiChoice and the union in February, MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela said they are “committed to job creation and making significant investments to grow our industry in a positive and meaningful way. That is one of the reasons why we are commissioning this new news channel.”
CWU reached an agreement with MultiChoice that whoever takes over the channel as a new licensee will absorb the Afro Worldview staff, as is stipulated in Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act.
“A team will be created to deal with the transition and workers will be paid until the announcement at the end of the month. We will then see what happens with the transition and take it from there,” said Tshabalala.
Former government spokesperson and businessman Mzwanele Manyi acquired The New Age newspaper and the ANN7 news channel from the politically connected Gupta family in 2017. To distance the acquisitions from the infamous family, Manyi renamed and rebranded the paper and channel as Afro Voice and Afro Worldview respectively.
The move however, did not offer any respite from their tarnished reputations.
Afro Voice shut down in June, leaving many workers without jobs.
Afro Worldview marketing manager Gugu Masinga told the M&G that “we are not discussing anything with the media,” echoing the sentiments of Manyi in other media reports.