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MultiChoice to probe ANN7 channel contract

MultiChoice to launches probe of ANN7 channel contract

Pay-TV operator MultiChoice's board has launched an investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the ANN7 channel.

This is the latest development, days after the company dismissed leaked emails that reportedly show it paid millions in bribes to the then Gupta-family owned news channel ANN7 in order to influence South Africa's former Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi.

Don Eriksson, independent non-executive director on the MultiChoice board of directors says the company's board has read the various media reports alleging that it has entered into an irregular relationship for the carriage of the ANN7 channel.

"The board is aware that the ANN7 channel has caused real public concern because of the allegations of corruption levelled at the former owners of the channel. These allegations have negatively impacted the reputation of MultiChoice."

Eriksson adds that the board has instructed its audit and risk committees to assess whether there has been corporate government failures at MultiChoice, whether the total amount paid to ANN7 is comparable to other locally-produced challenges, and to draw on any expertise and skills necessary in order to fulfil the mandate given by the board.

Earlier this week a MultiChoice spokesperson told ITWeb Africa that the company deems all its actions in relation to ANN7 to be above board.

"While we understand that some people may not be aware of it, it is standard practice to pay for mainstream news channels - particularly for local 24-hour news channels. The fee structure for the ANN7 contract is in line with the costs of developing and running such a channel, and ANN7 is definitely not the highest-paid local news channel on the DStv platform. The R25m fee referred to in the articles is also not unusual."

The spokesperson also denied that MultiChoice improperly influenced former communications Minister Muthambi on her decision regarding the possible encryption of signals to set-top-boxes used for digital migration.

A matter for law enforcement

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the current Communications Minister has since weighed in on the MultiChoice controversy in an interview with the SA Government News Agency.

She said, "As government we can't get involved in the processes where two parties have a contract in which both are private parties. If there are issues they need to discuss around their contract, they will discuss it themselves. We can't find any space there and I think it will be untoward for us to get involved so within that context of that debate. I think it is very important for us to clarify. There are people who are talking around the issue of corruption and as the department of communications we are not the relevant department to be dealing with such ... so if there are people who feel that something's wrong has happened, then that must be forwarded to the relevant agencies within the state, either it is the department of police or justice."

Kubayi was not clear on whether she thought it was better to encrypt the set-top boxes or not.

"On the issue of encryption and non-encryption, look, I think we need to move beyond that. If you look at where we started as a country, we started with the technology in 2006 and we are still talking about the same technology in 2017. Those people who are living in the technology life will tell you technology has really advanced. Sometimes people think encryption and non-encryption is a policy (but) it is a technology method. It is not a policy issue."

South Africa missed the 17 June 2015 deadline to switch to digital terrestrial television and is yet to complete the process.

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