Johannesburg – MultiChoice, the pay-TV company that owns DStv and M-Net, made a questionable payment of R25m to the Guptas’ controversial ANN7 channel, the #GuptaLeaks show.
In addition, MultiChoice increased its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m.
The payments came after the family seemingly assisted former communications minister Faith Muthambi in getting President Jacob Zuma to transfer certain broadcasting powers to her, something MultiChoice was lobbying the minister for.
Following the transfer of powers, Muthambi controversially pushed through a decision in favour of unencrypted set-top boxes, which benefitted MultiChoice.
Muthambi’s decision flouted her own party’s policy on the issue. The ANC supported encryption – required for pay-TV – to promote competition in the sector.
After a lengthy court battle, the Constitutional Court earlier this year ruled that it was within Muthambi’s right to make policy decisions affecting the broadcasting sector.
MultiChoice however deny that there is any relationship between the policy outcome in its favour and payments made to ANN7. In a statement, the company said: “MultiChoice rejects your insinuations in the strongest possible terms.”
The #GuptaLeaks reveal that:
– MultiChoice executive Clarissa Mack (who had since resigned) sent policy documents directly to Muthambi, who shared them with Gupta lieutenant Ashu Chawla, setting out proposals for Zuma to transfer broadcasting powers back to Muthambi after he split the communications portfolio into two departments in 2014;
– In September 2015, six months after Muthambi confirmed there would be no encryption, MultiChoice increased its annual payment to the Guptas’ controversial ANN7 channel from R50m to R141m – at a time when the channel had failed to win a significant slice of DStv’s news audience, and whilst the channel received widespread criticism over the quality of its content;
– MultiChoice CEO Imtiaz Patel was once a director of a company with the youngest Gupta brother, Tony, and Zuma’s son Duduzane. Patel says his appointment was done without his permission, and CIPC records show that he resigned from the company on the same day he was appointed.
New ANN7 owner Mzwanele Manyi, who took over the station this year in a vendor-financed deal, said: “The so-called Gupta emails have NOT been authenticated. What if all this is part of a larger plot designed to undermine alternative voices as in ANN7?”
The Guptas did not respond to questions but have previously dismissed the #GuptaLeaks as “not authentic”.
Pay for Play
MultiChoice has been in the news this week for paying the Guptas R50m per annum for ANN7.
The pay-TV giant denied signing a “third channel amendment agreement” which would have taken ANN7’s annual income from MultiChoice to R150m, but neglected to disclose the existence of a “fourth channel amendment agreement”.
This document was unearthed in-between the more than 200 000 emails that have become known as the #GuptaLeaks.
The agreement was signed by MultiChoice’s Glen Marques and Nazeem Howa for Infinity Media Networks, ANN7’s holding company, on September 9, 2015.