News channel ANN7 will be launched this evening (Wednesday) amid debate around its intended political influence and chances of success.
The channel is owned by the Gupta family, who also own The New Age newspaper. President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, is a shareholder.
ANC spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, congratulated the channel, saying that the South Africa story “remains largely untold”. “Our story is a story of 20 years of delivery, of some mistakes, of progress and most importantly a story of a South Africa that is better today than it was in 1994,” he said.
Mzoxolo Mpolase, chief political analyst at Political Analysis South Africa, said that the channel would differ from the generally anti-government stance of the SA mass media, and was likely to follow the same pro-Zuma narrative as the The New Age newspaper.
“Though it might affect the [media] landscape… it could be treated in the same way the New Age is treated, as a government mouth piece and only preach to the converted,” said Mpolase. He said the channel was unlikely to sway political opinion and would likely give specifically pro-Zuma coverage that other channels neglected.
“The Gupta’s association is not so much with the state as it is with the current president,” said Mpolase. “Maybe it’s the need of the current president who feels coverage is not favourable.”
“Until one sees what they do its very hard to say, I know very little about what they plan to do,” said Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Wits University. “They [The Guptas] have been producing a newspaper for two or three years now, and the newspaper has struggled. It will be interesting to see how they do television differently.”
Jimmy Manyi, head of South Africa’s Government Communication and Information Services, will be hosting a weekly hard talk show Straight Talk. Chantal Rutter Dros formerly from M-Net’s Carte Blanche has joined the channel as well as Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon and Arthur Mafokate.
“I am looking forward to presenting viewers with a channel that is unique in its profile and choice of programmes,” Nazeem Howa, the director at Infinity Media which is launching ANN7, said in a press statement earlier this month.
The ANN7 website states that it aims to give “ordinary South Africans access to both sides of stories of national importance” and focus on “constructive, nation-building stories in the interests of building a culture of unity and pride in SA”. The Citizen could not get through to ANN7’s offices via the contact number provided on their website and had not received a reply to written questions at the time of publication.
ANN7 is set to launch on DStv Channel 405 at 6pm.