JOHANNESBURG - Multichoice sought to pay the SABC R100-million for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the public broadcaster’s political influence over digital migration, the DA revealed on Wednesday.
SACB board minutes from June 2013 reveal a “clandestine” meeting between former SABC board members and executives, including Ellen Tshabalala, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Lulama Makhobo and Jimi Matthews, with the then CEO of Multichoice, Imtiaz Patel.
The DA spokesman on communications, Phumzile van Damme said in a statement that the documents support allegations in media reports last week that Multichoice paid the Gupta-owned news channel, ANN7, millions in exchange for similar influence over government’s position on set-top boxes.
"The implications of Multichoice paying kickbacks in order to not only solidify its dominance in the pay-TV sector but also secure influence over government policy in its favour are serious.
"It speaks to a company willing to stop at nothing, including paying kickbacks to the Gupta family, thus supporting state capture, in order to get its way," she said.
It was an undisputed fact that two years after the "clandestine" meeting, and the payments to ANN7, digital migration policy was changed to Multichoice’s favour, Van Damme said.
The DA has asked the broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to conduct a thorough investigation of the payments.
"The DA had hoped that following the media reports about ANN7 last week, Multichoice would take the opportunity to play open cards by revealing all. It refused to do so. It is now left to Icasa to reveal the truth.
"We hope that ICASA will finally flex its muscle and take a clear stand against what appears to be seriously unethical conduct by a company it regulates," Van Damme said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Communications, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has dismissed media reports that she will call for a probe into alleged corruption linked to payments made by Multichoice to ANN7 TV.
In a statement, the minister says the reports are factually incorrect.
She says the Department of Communications cannot get involved on contractual issues between two private parties. It will only engage on broadcasting policy related matters.
“There are relevant authorities of government that are competent to deal with any crime or corruption related matters. Members of the public are encouraged to follow the right channels to report any criminal activities,” Kubayi-Ngubane says.