Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Right2Know Campaign 'deeply concerned' over MultiChoice's dodgy dealings with SABC, ANN7; calls for Public Protector and parliamentary investigations.

The Right2Know Campaign has been weighing in on Naspers' widening scandal that has engulfed its pay-TV arm MultiChoice and its alleged dodgy dealings and contracts with the SABC and the controversial ANN7 channel from the Guptas, calling for urgent investigations by both the Public Protector and parliament.

At issue is whether the media conglom's lucrative pay-TV unit is or was involved in undue pressure to get the controversial Gupta family through their ANN7 channel, and the SABC, to exercise pressure in return for getting their TV news channels carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

Explosive, leaked meeting transcripts between MultiChoice and the South African public broadcaster the SABC, as well as #GuptaLeaks contracts between MultiChoice and the controversial ANN7 D(Stv 405) channel showing massive payments from DStv to the Guptas, have raised multiple serious questions over corporate impropriety.

MultiChoice told the SABC it would pay the broadcaster R100 million for the SABC News channel but but only on the strict must-have contract clause condition that the SABC must support MultiChoice's stance on conditional access (CA) for digital television.

MultiChoice also dramatically upped its payments from R50 million per year to R100 million per year and then R141 million per year, as well as a questionable, additional R25 million payment to the Guptas for the low-rated, bad quality, mistake-filled and often criticised ANN7.

MultiChoice is paying ANN7 more despite its barely there low ratings than eNCA (DStv 403) that has more than 50% of the overall TV news audience share.

It's all created the perception that MultiChoice has paid kickbacks to both the SABC and ANN7 to use its influence to get set-top box (STB) encryption dropped from government-subsidised STBs in the switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

MultiChoice and Naspers have denied the kickbacks allegations and the MultiChoice board announced that MultiChoice is starting an internal investigation of itself.

The Right2Know Campaign in a statement says it is "deeply worried by recent media revelations of suspect correspondence between, and dodgy payments from, MultiChoice to SABC and ANN7."

"R2K intends to lodge a complaint with the Public Protector and has written to parliament's communications committee to launch an inquiry."

"It is insinuated that these payments from MultiChoice to the Gupta-linked ANN7 and the SABC were intended as kickbacks to influence government policy on encryption of digital terrestrial television (DTT) signals."

"At the centre of this appears to be Faith Muthambi who then presided over the department of communications, and who is alleged to have pursued MultiChoice’s market dominance agenda in concert with various Gupta associates."

"This would suggest blatant corruption on the part of MultiChoice and Faith Muthambi to advantage themselves in the disastrous roll-out of digital TV, which has seriously undermined the public's right to know."

"If MultiChoice is innocent it should welcome the parliament and the Public Protector's probes," says the Right2Know Campaign.

"It should be noted, though, that this is not the first time there have been revelations of irregularities surrounding digital TV and set-top boxes (STBs)."

"Media reports have also linked Altech UEC and Mxolisi Saady Zuma, the president’s son, to STB procurement bribery."

"The Gupta family has sought to influence government policy on digital TV in order to make money for their various businesses since 2012 when they invited Dina Pule, who was the communications minister then, to their house for canvassing."

"Right2Know notes that the department of communication has to date not released the report of the investigation into alleged STB corruption which was commissioned by the National Treasury and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers."

"R2K has therefore written to parliament’s communications committee calling for an urgent probe into the dealings between MultiChoice, Faith Muthambi and the Guptas, and also will lodge a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector demanding an urgent probe."

"R2K demands that these probes be initiated immediately with the outcomes being publicised in 3 months".