At the EFF’s press conference in Braamfontein on Tuesday, EFF leader Julius Malema claimed to have come across damning allegations against DStv operator MultiChoice.
His press conference followed shortly after MultiChoice announced that the winning bidder of a new 24-hour black-owned news channel to replace Afro Worldview on channel 405 is a company called Newzroom Afrika.
Malema said: “Multichoice has presented some unknown fellows” and “there’s something running there that is not proper and we will come back to it”.
He alleged the problem was so deep that parliament might have to investigate it.
“We may want to ask the parliamentary committee to call MultiChoice and ask them how they came to this.”
He alleged that Newzroom Afrika (which he did not name directly) was a completely unexpected choice and he had seen a “file” about the matter, but he was not yet ready to discuss it because “we may need some time because the file I am going through is terrible”.
“They were not number one [among bidders expected to win]. They were not number two. Who knows these people? Who has a cosy relationship with these people?”
He alleged that the choice was possibly corrupt because: “These are ANC fellows.”
In a cryptic tweet on Monday night alluding to his press conference, Malema had asked if he should wait to dish up the dirt on MultiChoice.
Malema said he felt somewhat in a quandary about whether to “release the file” before MultiChoice’s announcement, or wait until his party’s own press conference later in the day.
MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela announced Newzroom Afrika on Tuesday morning after MultiChoice last week pulled the plug on Afro Worldview – the television channel formerly owned by the Gupta brothers under the name ANN7 – which until August 20 had aired on DStv channel 405.
In a press statement on Tuesday, MultiChoice explained that Newzroom Afrika “is a new company formed by successful television production entrepreneurs Thokozani Nkosi of Eclipse TV and Thabile Ngwato of Rapid Innovation”.
Mawela said their bid had stood out for its “potential to bring a fresh, creative and diversified approach to news reporting, which included an integrated digital strategy, combined with sound audience analysis and appealing on-screen execution”.
He added: “Newzroom Afrika has assembled an editorial team with proven news media credentials. Accomplished television executive Zanele Mthembu will head the broadcast operation, while the newsroom will be under the leadership of veteran news media executive and journalist Malebo Phage. There will be an editorial ethics oversight board spearheaded by the illustrious Joe Thloloe and Dinesh Balliah, a forward-thinking journalist and academic.
“This new channel will greatly enhance and enrich the news offering on DStv, whilst at the same time creating a new black-owned entrant in South African news media. It will promote the diversity of voices in media and give all our customers the chance to find a news channel on DStv that resonates with them.
“Today marks the birth of an exciting new and independent media voice in South Africa. We set out to find a quality new, black-owned, independent news channel to expand the diversity of SA news and enrich our democracy – we’re excited by the outcome,” added Mawela.
Mawela explained that two committees had been set up to evaluate and review the bids.
In January, Mawela had admitted “mistakes” were made in contractual negotiations with the formerly Gupta-owned 24-hour news channel ANN7 after MultiChoice inexplicably paid R25 million to the channel and increased its annual carriage fee from R50 million to R141 million.
Mawela said the agreement would be terminated when the deal expired on August 20, ending a five-year relationship after the channel started broadcasting in 2013.
The channel had changed ownership and name after Mzawanele Manyi’s Afrotone Media Holdings bought it for R300 million in a vendor-financed deal from the Guptas’ Infinity Media.
Staff at Afro Worldview were earlier informed not to report for work from August 21. Afrotone also bid for the slot, along with about 60 other companies.
The selection criteria MultiChoice says it used to select Newsroom Afrika:
- Be owned, managed and operated by an independent black South African owned company
- Be a South African, predominantly English –language, news channel that takes into account the history, diversity of cultural backgrounds, languages and socio-economic circumstances in South Africa
- Broadcast 24 hours per day
- Provide anchor- based, live broadcasts in the style of Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky, ENCA, SABC news and others
- Specially focus on national, regional, local and African news, actuality, current affairs and sport with less focus on International affairs
- Focus on training and development of news and broadcast industry personnel
- Foster strong ownership mentality with employees and partners through mechanisms such as employee equity and/ or incentive schemes
- Be independent, non-partisan, unbiased and critical – MultiChoice to have no editorial control or ownership
- Be widely distributed on DStv packages
- Receive funding from MultiChoice and other sources
- Add to media diversity and plurality
- Encourage new entrants into the media fraternity