The Right2Know Campaign has made an impassioned plea to whomever acquires the now-cancelled ANN7 licence, to retain nonmanagement staff following MultiChoice’s decision to drop the station founded by the Guptas.
MultiChoice announced the decision last Wednesday during a briefing in Johannesburg when it presented the outcomes of an internal investigation into payments made to ANN7, amid allegations that the pay-TV company was greasing the Guptas’ palms, in order to buy influence over the contentious issue of digital encryption.
MultiChoice has given ANN7 until August 2018, after which the channel will be taken off air. However, CEO Calvo Mawela said at the briefing that no one from MultiChoice would be fired and that the investigation had not unearthed corruption on MultiChoice’s part. But Mawela did concede that the company had failed to conduct "due diligence" in its dealings with ANN7.
A statement from the Right2Know Campaign released on Monday reads: "It is of great concern that this decision may lead to further layoffs of media workers, in a context of shrinking newsrooms across the industry. It is in this view that we demand that whoever is going to acquire the slot that replaces ANN7 to re-employ ANN7 staff who are below management level. Workers should not be punished because of bad decisions taken by management."
The group also said it was hard not to view MultiChoice’s decision as a "cynical move, designed to shortcut Icasa’s [the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s] probe of its [MultiChoice] payments to the SABC and ANN7, or to try to repair the reputational harm it has done to itself with these payments".
The Right2Know Campaign also believed that "this decision is bad for media freedom and media diversity, and highlights the continued challenges of concentrated media ownership in SA".
In announcing its decision to end the ANN7 contract, MultiChoice also opened up a bidding process "for a replacement local news channel".
"This has been a humbling experience for MultiChoice. While we entered into an agreement for the ANN7 channel at a time that the extent of state capture was unknown, we fully understand the outrage of the public regarding endemic corruption in our country, and accept we should have dealt with the concerns around ANN7 far more swiftly," Mawela said.