The Gupta-controlled Infinity Media Networks, which owns the 24-hour news channel ANN7 — broadcast on MultiChoice’s DStv pay-television platform — has applied to communications regulator Icasa for a commercial, free-to-air TV licence that will allow it to broadcast nationally on South Africa’s digital terrestrial TV network.
Icasa is holding public hearings in Midrand this week to hear representations for a number of applicants interested in receiving free-to-air TV licences. The authority is holding the hearings ahead of the commercial launch of digital terrestrial TV in South Africa, which will allow for new broadcasters to enter the market. It’s the first time new commercial free-to-air players will be introduced since e.tv was licensed in 1998.
If its application for a broadcasting licence is successful, Infinity Media intends to launch only ANN7 on a terrestrial platform — it does not plan to launch a bouquet of channels, it said at the Icasa hearings on Wednesday.
Shareholders in Infinity Media include Atul Gupta, Chetali Gupta, Rajesh Gupta and Arti Gupta, along with President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma (see table from the company’s submission to Icasa below).
ANN7 is widely described as Gupta TV because of the controversial Gupta family’s control of the company. The Guptas are seen as close to the president. Their newspaper, The New Age, along with the paper’s business breakfast briefings, enjoy strong financial support from a number of state-owned enterprises and government departments, along with political support.
Infinity Media minority shareholders include Nazeem Howa, the CEO of The New Age, and Moegsien Williams, the editor in chief of both ANN7 and The New Age.
In its Icasa application, Infinity Media lists its directors as Laxmi Narain Goel and Arpit Goel (Indian nationals and both of the Essel Group) as well as Nazeem Howa, Atul Gupta (founder of Sahara Computers) and Varun Gupta (all South African nationals). Senior management is made up of Howa (CEO), Williams (editor in chief) and Ricky Naidoo (editor).
ANN7, which is short for African News Network 7, was launched in August 2013. At the time of the launch, it was mocked heavily on social media for a series of technical glitches as well as mistakes made by untrained presenters. – © 2015 NewsCentral Media