Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Lobby groups have vowed to continue opposing Gupta-owned ANN7’s bid for a new licence, despite the channel rebranding to distance itself from the controversial family.

Mzwanele Manyi, owner of Afrotone Media Holdings, said on Monday ANN7 would change its name to Afro Worldview on April 30. The New Age (TNA) newspaper would be rebranded as Afro Voice and its editorial policy would be in line with the press code.

Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments announced in late 2017 its withdrawal from its media interests‚ selling its shareholding in Infinity Media (ANN7) and TNA to Lodidox and management for R450m. Oakbay Investments vendor-financed the deals, essentially lending Manyi the money to buy the businesses.

Manyi said at the weekend he had repaid his debt to the Gupta family and the original amount owed had been lowered after renegotiations.

ANN7 will be dropped from the DStv bouquet in August.

Manyi’s company applied for an individual commercial free-to-air television broadcasting service and radio frequency spectrum licence.

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa have called on the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) not to grant the company the licence, citing, among others, its links to the Guptas. The organisations said given that free-to-air licences were granted infrequently — this would only be the second in SA’s history — and because they use public resources in the form of frequencies, they believed it was important to apply great scrutiny to those who were to be granted such licences.

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said: "Yes. Our submission stands and aside from the media report [on paying back the Guptas and the name change] we have no evidence to change our view."

Bird said that name changes also raised bigger questions.

"Like how did they pay the Guptas back given that we are led to believe the Guptas have no bank account? We also need to know who the new owners are and what are the agreements."

In March, Icasa issued a notice, inviting comment on the applications for a licence.

Written representations closed on April 16. Applicants have until May 17 to respond to written representations. A final decision on the issue is expected by March 2019.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.