Media mogul: Mzwanele Manyi bought the ANN7 television channel and The New Age newspaper. Lobby groups have called on Icasa to reject Infinity Media’s bid for a free-to-air licence. Picture: SUPPLIED
Media mogul: Mzwanele Manyi bought the ANN7 television channel and The New Age newspaper. Lobby groups have called on Icasa to reject Infinity Media’s bid for a free-to-air licence. Picture: SUPPLIED

MultiChoice’s new black-owned TV channel says that it plans to "prioritise" job applicants from the Gupta-linked station it is replacing and that it plans to launch in early 2019.

MultiChoice said on Tuesday it had signed a broadcasting deal with Newzroom Afrika, a start-up jointly owned by "successful television production entrepreneurs" Thokozani Nkosi of Eclipse TV and Thabile Ngwato of Rapid Innovation. The company is to produce a 24-hour news channel on DStv, filling the spot left vacant after MultiChoice pulled the plug on Afro Worldview, the channel formerly known as ANN7, which Mzwanele Manyi bought in 2017 from the Gupta family in a transaction financed by them.

In June, Manyi said he was "quietly confident" Afro Worldview would win back its spot after the channel took on new shareholders, including Mandela Legacy Media and private investors Unathi Mguye and Sifiso Mthethwa.

Manyi told Business Day on Tuesday that about 350 Afro Worldview staff were now without jobs after the channel stopped broadcasting.

"We chose Newzroom Afrika because they met all of the qualifying criteria … a track record of entrepreneurial success, and we really wanted to give a platform to a new entrant with vast potential and somebody with a fresh perspective on news," said Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment at MultiChoice’s parent company, Naspers.

Ngwato, who stepped down as a news anchor and producer at the SABC this month, said Afro Worldview employees "will certainly be prioritised when it comes to our recruitment process". She is also the founder and CEO of broadcasting services firm Rapid Innovation.

MultiChoice SA CEO Calvo Mawela said the selection process had been "extensive and thorough". MultiChoice appointed management consulting firm Accenture to manage the process, while Thomson Reuters conducted due diligence investigations to verify ownership and empowerment credentials, check that applicants had no political affiliations, and evaluate reputational risk.

Nkosi, whose Eclipse TV business produces content for the SABC and other platforms, said Newzroom Afrika was "still finalising" its launch but wanted to go live in early 2019.

The start-up has appointed Zanele Mthembu to head the broadcast operation and Malebo Phage to head the newsroom. Both were previously at eTV.

Newzroom Afrika said it had also appointed an "editorial ethics oversight board", led by former press ombudsman Joe Thloloe and Wits University lecturer Dinesh Balliah.

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said that while he would have preferred "a more open and transparent" selection process, Newzroom Afrika sounded promising.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za

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