Former government spokesman Mzwanele Manyi’s company bought ANN7 and The New Age from Gupta-owned Oakbay in August 2017. Picture: ALON SKUY
Former government spokesman Mzwanele Manyi’s company bought ANN7 and The New Age from Gupta-owned Oakbay in August 2017. Picture: ALON SKUY

Will ANN7 destroy MultiChoice’s reputation? Are South Africans now adding MultiChoice to the list of the Zupta complicit, along with McKinsey, SAP and KPMG?

Because of the latest Gupta e-mail leaks, we finally know why MultiChoice broadcasts ANN7: it has been paying the Guptas for it. That’s why it has refused to say anything. It did not want SA to know about the secret payments to the Guptas.

But now the game is up and MultiChoice is panicking.

It thinks dropping ANN7 in June 2018 will put an end to matters. It is saying: "Enough is enough! Seven months from now, we just won’t stand for this kind of thing."

There is no criminality on the part of MultiChoice. But facts are like dots: some of them can be connected. MultiChoice has had to confirm an original agreement to pay the Guptas R50m a year for the privilege of broadcasting ANN7. We know this because of Gupta attempts to amend the agreement, asking for an increase from R50m to R150m a year. You can’t amend an original agreement without an original agreement.

But MultiChoice insists it did not sign the amended agreement, which would represent a decade’s payments of R1.5bn to the Guptas.

Outrageous, says MultiChoice, we would never do such a thing. Stop asking, there’s nothing to see here. Besides, just look at that leaked amendment! Do you see a signature on it?

Of course not! It’s a Word file! In my experience, Word files are printed out and then people sign them. But my company is much smaller than MultiChoice; maybe the rules are different when you’re that big.

But let’s take MultiChoice at its word, because it is an honourable company.

All we can say with certainty is that it has a long-standing relationship with the Guptas, who thought MultiChoice might agree to a R1.5bn deal without asking rational questions.

Fine. MultiChoice insists it has "only" been paying R50m a year for ANN7. Since its inception in August 2013, that amounts to more than R200m. Regrettably, I’m poor enough to think of R200m as big money.

But even this "small" amount starts to explain why DStv is so crazy expensive. It needs to skim money off subscribers’ monthly debit orders as a sort of Saxonwold tribute.

This is scandalous and staggering. MultiChoice has poured more than R200m into a poor and unsuccessful channel. That’s another first from DStv.

If you’re not a Gupta, MultiChoice won’t give you money for your television start-up. If I proposed, say, Deon-TV, your home for all things cricket and crochet, MultiChoice might broadcast it for free, taking half my channel’s advertising revenue for the privilege. No risk exists on MultiChoice’s part. It seems like smart business.

But even this 'small' amount starts to explain why DStv is so crazy expensive. It needs to skim money off subscribers’ monthly debit orders as a sort of Saxonwold tribute

But MultiChoice jovially abandoned all caution as soon as the Guptas asked. It became accommodating beyond anything that has ever been seen.

And its generosity has not ended. Even though ANN7 is a commercial failure, a fake news liability and a reputational catastrophe, MultiChoice dutifully keeps paying for it.

If ANN7 were one of MultiChoice’s own channels, it would have been axed by next Christmas or Koos Bekker’s birthday — whichever comes first.

There is no rational reason for MultiChoice to pay for ANN7. It would be easy to get out of the leaked contract — ANN7’s owners are clearly in breach. Why still stand by your men? I hate to cast aspersions, but is ANN7 really what MultiChoice has been paying the Guptas for?

Never mind. Here’s another indisputable fact: KPMG dropped the Guptas in 2016 due to "reputational risk".

According to a City Press report about ANN7’s axing, MultiChoice has now grown concerned over the "reputational damage" this whole Gupta thing is inflicting on its brand. MultiChoice, are you for real? You’ve decided that only now?

It is November 2017. If you’ve only just realised the Guptas are the bad guys, you’ve been getting all your news from ANN7.

MultiChoice’s other reasons for dropping ANN7 are said to "include ethical considerations — driven by views that the channel was biased and promoting a factional agenda in which individuals were being targeted for attack — as well as commercial considerations and concerns about production quality".

Apparently MultiChoice "would [terminate] it sooner, but [doesn’t] want a protracted court case". MultiChoice shying away from legal action? Puh-lease.

The savings from the Gupta payments alone would cover MultiChoice’s legal costs. The trial would even provide a rare public service — the Guptas would get their day in court! Anything else just wouldn’t be fair to them.

It is in the Zupta faction’s interest to keep ANN7 broadcasting on DStv in the months ahead. What if the Zuptas are overthrown at the December conference? If they want to fight back, would it be useful to have a propaganda channel as obedient as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation?

In its tacky Randburg compound, MultiChoice seems to think the ANN7 storm will blow over if it pretends not to notice it. It doesn’t realise that ANN7 is destroying every shred of goodwill its brand might have had.

South Africans now say "MultiChoice" in the same sentence as KPMG and McKinsey. But I am being unfair to KPMG and McKinsey. At least they have stopped doing business with Gupta interests.

As of November 22, MultiChoice continues doing what not even Trillian or the Bank of Baroda would: supporting the Zupta project.

MultiChoice, this is humiliating. These are crucial South African weeks. Removing ANN7 from DStv would make SA a safer, saner place by the December conference.

This is not about closing ANN7, long may it live. It’s about not broadcasting it on DStv. Right now, MultiChoice is as responsible for Gupta TV as the Guptas themselves. The only difference is that the Guptas don’t pay for the propaganda.

An immediate ethical decision to drop ANN7 could still counter the conclusion that MultiChoice is a sell-out. Its continued insistence on supporting the Guptas shows it up as the cynical, immoral, insatiable monster it probably is.

Like KPMG and McKinsey, MultiChoice operates in an alternate universe where remuneration exists but ethics don’t. I hope MultiChoice drops ANN7 before the conference, but I won’t bet on it.

The MultiChoice brand might pretend to celebrate SA, but the MultiChoice institution deserves the level of contempt we have for KPMG and the rest of them. Unless its new CEO intervenes, he will cement the firm’s place in the Gallery of the Guptas.

MultiChoice is running out of runway. It only has a few days left to drop ANN7 and choose the right side of history. Dudes, you’re in denial if you think this is going away quietly.

Just like KPMG, SAP and McKinsey, MultiChoice is now known to be complicit in the Zuptas’ grand theft. It has one chance left to salvage its reputation. But I think it is already too compromised for that. In its desperation to prop up the Zuptas, MultiChoice is destroying its own reputation.

This is its final chance to escape the Zupta network. For the millionth time: divorce the devil.

• Wiggett is founder and creative director of Fairly Famous, a progressive advertising agency.

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