As new news channel ANN7 launched last night, the debate about its intended political influence, and chance of success, raged on. The Gupta family owns the channel, as well as The New Age newspaper. President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, is a shareholder.
African National Congress 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.
However, 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 New Age.
“Though it might affect the [media] landscape, it could be treated in the same way as The New Age – as a government mouthpiece and only preach to the converted,” said Mpolase.
He said the channel was unlikely to sway political opinion.
“The Guptas’ 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.”
Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Wits University, said it was difficult to comment on the channel as there was little information available. “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 talk show, Straight Talk, and Chantal Rutter Dros, formerly with M-Net’s Carte Blanche has joined the channel, as well as Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon and Arthur Mafokate.
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 couldn’t get through to ANN7’s offices via the contact number on its website.