DStv subscribers are wondering exactly how much they're paying to support ANN7 (DStv 405) after a revised contract agreement was made publicly available in which MultiChoice agreed to up it payment from R50 million to R150 million per year to broadcast the channel.
The draft contract between MultiChoice and Infinity Media and several email correspondence about the channel's content are part of a new tranche of the so-called "Gupta leaks" emails that has been made publicly available.
The new set of emails about the "Gupta news" channel that came to light on Thursday makes for embarrassing reading in some places, and gives insight into what the Guptas wanted, what MultiChoice wanted, and what ANN7 originally wanted to be.
It also raises questions over how much DStv subscribers are paying for the channel that has been slammed by parties across the political spectrum, has been mired in embarrassing on-air bloopers since its launch day, and has been described as broadcasting content that is "racially divisive" to South Africa.
In response to a media enquiry, MultiChoice says "the draft contract published was not signed and MultiChoice is not part of the email exchange referred to in your query. We confirm that we have a legally binding contract, the details of which are subject to confidentiality clauses".
MultiChoice was asked that since launch ANN7 made and continues to make mistakes and if this has impacted on the money MultiChoice is paying ANN7 and if MultiChoice is paid ANN7 less due to performance issues.
MultiChoice didn't specifically answer this.
The leaked email correspondence reveals fascinating other insights. ANN7's original name was actually Infinity News before it was changed to Africa News Network 7.
Another leaked email reveals that ANN7 actually started late. When its botched launch took place on 21 August 2013, it was already behind schedule – it was supposed to start on the 1st of that month. Later ANN7 admitted it wasn't actually even fully ready for the 21st launch day.
In the email trove it becomes clear that MultiChoice was also adamant that the Guptas should do a TV news channels that kept to the "running schedule, look and feel of a traditional news television service in the spirit of those already carried on MultiChoice DStv platform such as eNCA, CNN International, Sky News, BBC and Al Jazeera".
MultiChoice told the Guptas that "it is very important that we have clarity that we are getting a traditional 24-hour South African news channel (with vernacular languages) and not anything else".
Another fascinating revelation from the emails is that ANN7 would originally have been a multi-language channel "with multiple subtitling" – before it ended up being an English-only channel.
ANN7 eventually also agreed not to carry TopTV (now StarSat) advertisements/commercials or any of competing pay-TV platforms in South Africa.
In an email Amitabh Kumar writes to Tony Gupta: "They" - meaning MultiChoice - "have still not agreed on the channel carrying advertising of any other channel which is not on the platform. Perhaps we can agree to this."
ANN7 continues to inflict brand and reputational damage on MultiChoice with more than 12 500 people who have so far signed a petition that was started in April at petitions24.com where DStv subscribers say they don't want to be forced to pay for the content coming from ANN7.
So far the ANN7 petition is the global site's 3rd highest signature and comment drawer for 2017. On Thursday negative comments again started flooding social networks when the latest Gupta emails were made publicly available.
In August the controversial Gupta-aligned businessman Mzwanele Manyi announced that his company Lodidox has bought ANN7 for R300 million and two-thirds of TNA Media that owns The New Age newspaper for R150 million from Oakbay in a deal financed by the Guptas.
Afrotone Media Holdings is now the new holding company for ANN7 and The New Age with Mzwanele Manyi as executive chairman.