Naspers’s pay-TV operator MultiChoice said on Monday at least 60 parties were interested in taking over ANN7’s slot on DStv.

In January, MultiChoice said it would not renew its contract with the controversial news channel when it expired in August 2018.

MultiChoice said at the time it would replace ANN7 with a local black-owned news channel that should broadcast predominantly in English and be "unbiased" and "critical".

"More than 60 parties have registered an interest to bid for a proposed new, black-owned channel since MultiChoice invited interested parties earlier this month," the company said on Monday, adding that it had opened the tender process.

The parties that had registered had until the end of April to respond to MultiChoice’s request for proposals, while other parties could still register their intention to bid by April 20.

The successful bidder would be notified before the end of July.

MultiChoice SA CEO Calvo Mawela said MultiChoice was "encouraged that we’ll be able to offer South Africans another local news channel, which will add to the diversity of news on DStv".

MultiChoice axed ANN7 because of the "controversies" associated with the formerly Gupta-owned news channel, which was bought by former cabinet spokesman Mzwanele Manyi last year in a vendor-financed deal.

Manyi has thus far refused to comment on ANN7’s future, although a senior staff member at the station told Business Day earlier this month that "few decisions have yet been made".

MultiChoice said earlier this month, after a meeting with the Communication Workers Union, that it had agreed to investigate ways in which it could reduce job losses stemming from the decision to sideline ANN7.

The pay-TV operator in January concluded an internal investigation into its dealings with ANN7, following allegations that payments made to the channel and to the SABC were meant to sway government policy on digital migration in its favour.

It said it had found no evidence of illegal activities but would cut ANN7 from its bouquet anyway.