02/02/2018 12:11 SAST | Updated 02/02/2018 12:11 SAST

MultiChoice: With Great Power Comes Greater Transparency

Experts say MultiChoice should release the full report on its contract with ANN7 because of the role the channel plays within South Africa's media landscape.


MultiChoice choosing to keep their full report on ANN7 behind closed doors is not doing its public image any favours -- the company's dominance in the pay-TV market requires an adherence to a higher threshold of transparency.

This according to experts who spoke to HuffPost SA on Friday, all of whom said that MultiChoice had a responsibility to the public to come clean about its dealings with the former Gupta-owned news channel.

The DA also announced on Friday that it had submitted an application to MultiChoice in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to request the full report.

"Instead of providing substantial answers, MultiChoice's press briefing on Wednesday left the public with more questions than answers. If MultiChoice has nothing to hide, it will willingly make this document public," DA spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said.

"Only the full truth will get MultiChoice out of this mess. We need to know what mistakes were made, why no one is being held accountable and whether the money of those who are DStv subscribers may have been used to grease Gupta palms."

Media Monitoring Africa's William Bird said because of the monopoly it holds in the South African pay-TV market, whatever decisions MultiChoice makes has an impact on the entire sector.

READ: Why MultiChoice Needs To Release Its Full Report On ANN7.

"Because they are a large commercial entity, they should be held to a far greater level of accountability to the public... They are the only show in town and it means the public has no other option but [for] them. When they take a decision not to renew a contract of a 24-hour news channel, it is not something that should be taken lightly," Bird said.

"Because of the power they wield, they must make the report public for scrutiny and interrogation."

MultiChoice on Wednesday announced that it would not renew its contract to host ANN7 after its Board had instituted an investigation, bringing in auditors and a law firm to assist it. The investigation found no evidence of corruption or "payments in return for assistance with achieving its policy objectives".

The University of Witwatersrand's professor Jannie Rossouw said it was normally the media who demanded full transparency, but now the "boot is on the other foot".

"It is difficult to predict how this may affect the company in the long term. It is a monopoly based on efficiency and should be judged differently from monopolies based on law, like Eskom. The judgement should be just as harsh," Rossouw said.

"Companies in a monopoly position act differently to those who aren't. This is what we are seeing now."

READ: Did MultiChoice Make The Right Decision?

South African National Editors' Forum director Kate Skinner MultiChoice's business dealings are in the public interest.

"They play a powerful role in the media landscape. They own 98 percent of the subscription market and are in half of our houses. Therefore, its business interests are absolutely in the public interest. It requires particular transparency because of its power," Skinner said.

"The more information they put out, the greater the possibility people will take their sentiment seriously and it will also help to stop the rumour-mongering."