Monday, January 22, 2018

Why has South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa, after 8 weeks done nothing yet to start an investigation into MultiChoice's payments to ANN7, asks South Africa's Democratic Alliance political party.

South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) political party wants to know why South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has not done anything after 8 weeks to investigate the payments of the pay-TV company MultiChoice to the controversial ANN7 TV channel on DStv.

The Democratic Alliance says Icasa has failed to act promptly and to take serious action against MultiChoice against allegations of unethical conduct.

A widening scandal engulfed MultiChoice in November 2017 when shocking emails as part of the so-called #GuptaLeaks were made public, showing how MultiChoice had been paying ANN7 millions more than a TV news channel like eNCA (DStv 403), although eNCA has a lot more viewers.

MultiChoice itself has now being accused of corruption and collusion with the Guptas and tainted politicians like Faith Muthambi, by a growing chorus of the public and political parties.

The Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political parties called for a public parliamentary inquiry into MultiChoice, its dealings and contracts with the Guptas over ANN7, and the former minister of communications, Faith Muthambi.

In the shocking #GuptaLeaks, News24 revealed the emails showing how MultiChoice made a dubious R25 million payment to the Guptas for its low-rated, biased and mistake-filled channel, in addition to upping the money MultiChoice pays to ANN7 from R50 million to a whopping R141 million per year.

The emails revealed that MultiChoice is paying ANN7 R141.38 million as part of its contract for the channel, a channel that stands accused of fostering racial discord, biased and unbalanced coverage and targeting politicians who are against president Jacob Zuma.

According to a 4th channel amendment agreement signed by Glen Marques in September 2015, MultiChoice upped its payment from R50 million to R100 million to a staggering R141 380 000 per year although ANN7 is the least watched of the three local TV news channels with SABC News and eNCA as rivals.

"It has been 8 weeks since the DA submitted a request to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) for an investigation into MultiChoice’s payments to ANN7 and the SABC, allegedly in exchange for influence of government policy in its favour," says Phumzile Van Damme, the DA's shadow minister of communications and a member of parliament.

"It is ICASA’s duty, to take this matter up in the public interest, and in particular, on behalf of those South Africans who part with their hard-earned money every month for DStv subscription fees. They deserve to know whether their money was used by MultiChoice to grease the palms of the Gupta family."

"Last year, the Democratic Alliance revealed SABC board minutes dated 6 June 2013, which suggests that MultiChoice sought to pay the SABC R100 million for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the SABC’s political influence over digital migration. This also supports allegations in the media, that MultiChoice had paid Gupta-owned ANN7 millions in exchange for similar influence over government’s position on set-top boxes," says Phumzile Van Damme.

"The meeting was attended by the then interim SABC board, SABC executives and then MultiChoice CEO, Imtiaz Patel. At the meeting, Imtiaz Patel stated that “we would not normally pay for a news channel” but that he would be able to convince the MultiChoice board members on the condition the SABC exert their influence over former communications minister, Faith Muthambi."

"It was for this reason the DA wrote to Icasa to request for an inquiry into these allegations, and furthermore requested that MultiChoice contracts with the SABC and ANN7 be made public."

"Although ICASA publicly acknowledged receiving our request, we are yet to receive any correspondence. Even with the magnitude of these allegations, Icasa has failed to act promptly and take serious action against MultiChoice for these allegations of unethical conduct."

Phumzile Van Damme says Icasa "has the responsibility to probe these allegations without further delay".