JOHANNESBURG, January 1 – The decision by South Africa’s Multichoice to not renew its broadcast contract with the Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) channel founded by the Gupta family could have serious implications for media freedom and set a negative precedent, the National Editors Forum (Sanef) has cautioned.
”We hope that Multichoice’ decision was not influenced by the latest developments in the political landscape and by complaints by people who do not approve of the channel’s stated political preferences,” the organisation said in a statement.
”Media freedom is sacrosanct and needs to be protected at all times against political or business interests and our thoughts remain with all the journalists employed by ANN7.”
Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Multichoice CEO Calvo Mawela said although there was no evidence of corruption with the Midrand-headquartered ANN7, Multichoice has found that there were some mistakes made in contractual negotiations between the two companies.
Sanef said it would seek further clarity from Multichoice on the decision and on Mawela’s statement.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has since said that it would be investigating MultiChoice over allegations of payments made to ANN7 and the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC).
MultiChoice also said that in a bid to replace ANN7 on DStv, it was looking at finding a new black-owned news channel which represents the majority of people in South Africa. This was welcomed by Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane as a “progressive move”.
“It is imperative to ensure that there is diversity of media ownership bringing new and fresh perspective to the people of South Africa,” Kubayi-Ngubane.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also said that Multi-choice’s decision not to renew the contract was political motivated.
Cosatu national spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla said: “The federation finds this decision suspicious, hypocritical and deeply regrettable because it will result in ANN7 possibly retrenching some of their workers because of loss of revenue. We have reasons to suspect that Multi-choice’s decision was conveniently political and that they succumbed to the pressure that has been exerted by a litany of lobbyists.”
Cosatu that the decision would to lead to possible retrenchments.
“Workers livelihoods are now being compromised because some people and lobbyists are waging their narrow battles. Despite all the furore surrounding ANN7 and Multi-choice,we caution everyone to remember that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We should all guard against allowing speculation and paranoia to drive us into an age of unreason,” Pamla said.
He said that they would be engaging with the Communication Workers Union as it plans to defend the interest of workers.
ANN7’s contract on Multichoice’ Dstv bouquet expires in August.
– African News Agency (ANA)