THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Friday, December 1, 2017

As the scandal that has engulfed DStv keeps growing over dealings with the Guptas and ANN7, MultiChoice finally relents after public pressure; says it will now investigate possible corruption.


MultiChoice has finally bowed under growing public pressure as a widening scandal involving its massive payments to the controversial Gupta family for the ANN7 (DStv 405) channel has engulfed the pay-TV operator running the DStv service, and said on Friday morning that MultiChoice will now conduct an investigation into possible corruption and governance failures.

On Tuesday this week TVwithThinus asked MultiChoice if it will possibly undertake or is going to undertake any investigation following the various #GuptaLeaks emails, contracts and email trail linking MultiChoice, the disgraced former minister of communictions, the Gupta family and the ANN7 TV channel.

MultiChoice didn't want to give any clear yes or no answer and simply said in response to the media enquiry that there was nothing unusual or inappropriate about its interactions with the minister and its contract with ANN7.

The past week, since last Friday's latest revelations of allegedly inappropriate dealings between MultiChoice and the Guptas over ANN7 - including questionable payments together with exorbitant amounts of money paid by DStv to the Guptas for the highly-criticised and low quality ANN7 channel - MultiChoice and Naspers has been enveloped in a growing tsunami of bad press and an avalanche of public criticism.

MultiChoice upped its payments to ANN7 from R50 million per year to R100 million per year and then a whopping R141 million per year and threw in a questionable R25 million once-off payment.

These MultiChoice payments have been made while ANN7 has remained mired in biased, slanted coverage and has been accused of fostering racial discord in South Africa through its one-sided coverage - particularly contantly slating politicians and people who are against State Capture and president Jacob Zuma's alleged looting of the public purse.

Meanwhile ANN7's on-air mistakes and embarrassing gaffes, including low production values continues unabated.

On Friday morning MultiChoice issued a statement saying that because MultiChoice's reputation has been "negatively impacted" it will now launch a probe into the ANN7 deal and whether there's been any corporate governance failures at MultiChoice".

MultiChoice is investigating itself, instead of any independent, external investigation by group owner Naspers where Naspers chairperson Koos Bekker has been dismissive of criticism from the public and investors about possible corrupt dealings by MultiChoice, and where CEO Bob van Dijk bristled with irritation in the week when asked by Naspers isn't investigating the allegations.

MultiChoice isn't saying whether the outcome of the investigation will be made public once it has been concluded.

In the MultiChoice statement, attributed to Don Eriksson, an independent non-executive director in his role as the chairperson of MultiChoice's audit and risk committees, Don Eriksson said the MultiChoice board is "aware that the ANN7 channel has caused real public concern".

"The MultiChoice board has read the various media reports alleging that MultiChoice has entered into an irregular relationship for the carriage of the ANN7 channel".

"The board is aware that the ANN7 channel has caused real public concern because of the allegations of corruption levelled at the former owners of the channel".

"These allegations have negatively impacted the reputation of MultiChoice. The MultiChoice board has therefore instructed its audit and risk committees to assess whether there has been any corporate governance failures at MultiChoice and report back to the board".

"Based on what is contained in that report, the MultiChoice board will take the necessary action; assess whether the total amount paid to ANN7 is comparable to payments made for other locally-produced channels with due consideration being given to the estimated costs of running a 24-hour news channel."

MultiChoice says it will also "draw on any expertise and skills necessary in order to fulfil the mandate given by the board".

"In addition, Adv Kgomotso Moroka, one of the MultiChoice board members, was requested by the board and has agreed to, assist the audit and risk committees in this matter".

After MultiChoice paid the controversial Gupta family - involved in widespread allegations of State Capture and improper transactions with multiple state-owned enterprises and other companies worth billions of rand - the Guptas earlier this year sold ANN7 to Mzwanele "Jimmy" Manyi's Afrotone Media Holdings.