Following Multichoice's removal of Catholic TV channel Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), fans of the religious channel across Africa have called on the company to reconsider its decision.
The South African-owned establishment on August 23rd via Facebook advised subscribers on its move. The message reads: "MultiChoice Nigeria wishes to advise DStv subscribers that NN24 (channel 414) and EWTN (channel 348) will be terminating on August 22 and August 31 respectively on the E36B (W7) platform.
"MultiChoice considers a number of key factors when assessing the viability of a channel on the platform; these include the cost of distribution, the channel offering within the context of similar channels in that genre, subscriber feedback and the number of viewers and popularity of that channel.
"MultiChoice Africa has reached a mutual agreement with the various channel distributors to terminate NN24 and EWTN on the W7 platform."
Catholics and non-Catholics alike from across Africa have expressed their views on the message.
Ugandan Paul Mugisha said, "something the DStv should know is we subscribe to it because of interests. I invest my 10,000 Naira because of EWTN. If the channel can't be aired, I also have ability to vote with my feet. The DSTV arrogance is not acceptable."
Nigerian Eric Ezirim said he was shocked when he said he switched on his TV to watch EWTN, only to see that it has been scrapped. "Thousands of Catholics rejoiced last two years because of the arrival of EWTN, and just when we are still relishing the arrival, DStv is removing it. I can't believe this. What does Dstv take us for? I think the time has come for all the Catholic subscribers of Dstv to move out of DStv, because we cannot compromise our faith."
Some others like Nyemike Onukwu had requested that the viewer figure be published. "I think you guys are making a big mistake. You won't remove the sexually perverted programs like Big Brother, because it is making you money. It is well! I hope another competitor grabs this opportunity. [sic]
In the same light, Alfred Mwenya Kapambwe said, "give us the numbers to justify your actions. In my opinion, the EWTN has been a great channel to watch and I see no reason why it should be removed. If the Catholic is the largest Church, then it has a significant number of DStv subscribers....I believe DStv needs to reconsider its decision."
"How can DStv says it's an unpopular channel," queries Ali Umar, a Muslim. "It is the only channel I watch, because it is the only one that has enriched my appreciation for Christianity. As a family I watch it with my children no less than three times a week. One of my favourite programmes is 'Life on the rock'. They have some really interesting interviews. I also like 'Reflections' with Fr. Leo Clifford, 'Sunday Night Prime' and some others."
Another Muslim, Maimuna Al-Bashir, said, "are they soon going to remove Islamic channels and say they are unpopular too? Because if they can say the Catholics across Africa are not enough to make the EWTN popular, then we should also be awaiting something similar for us."
Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, Catholic Bishop of Oyo and Chairman of the Directorate of Communications for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in a letter to Multichoice told Weekly Trust that he wrote Multichoice on the matter and was told that 'Dstv cared about its audience and that this channel was removed for non performance, meaning that it did not have enough audience patronage.' Contrary to this, he said, "the volume of requests we have received from Catholics protesting this suspension tells a different story. We hope we can resolve this matter without having to test how really popular this channel is to the 18 million Catholics in Nigeria and many other Christians who watch Catholic programmes."
A message signed by Olukayode Ayoola sent to Bishop Badejo after his letter reads thus: "Please be assured of our high regards towards customer satisfaction. MultiChoice Africa has reached a mutual agreement with the various channel distributors to terminate NN24 and EWTN on the E36B (W7) platform.
"Some key factors where considered when assessing the viability of a channel on the platform; these include the channel offering within the context of similar channels in that genre, the cost of distribution, subscriber feedback and the number of viewers/popularity of that channel. The channels are being terminated to make space for new channels.
"We thank you for your understanding. Why Multichoice would send Nigerians, believed to be one of its largest if not largest clientele base, such an insensitive message and not bother to have any personal touch to views raised by subscribers here," asked Idowu Abiodun.
A Ghanaian, Joseph K. Kudjordji seems to have a solution for Ghanaians. "The good news for disappointed Ghanaian DSTV/Multichoice subscribers is that Smart Tv is carrying live EWTN 24/7 almost free. Disenchanted DSTV subscribers need only to call and hook unto the EWTN exciting programmes."
A statement by EWTN made available to Weekly Trust said, "we have since been in contact with representatives of Multichoice and have attempted to see if they would reconsider. Unfortunately, we have been told that the decision is final."
As at the time of this report, Multichoice was yet to respond to calls and email placed to its Nigerian and South African offices to obtain their reactions.