10 February 2013

South Africa: We Need More Clarity On ?gupta TV?

press release

The recent revelation of the Gupta family's plans for a 24-hour news channel on DSTV, and the fact that The New Age has secured a slot on the SABC's prime time show Sunday Live, raises several questions.

Head of eNews Channel Africa, Patrick Conroy has indicated that the cost of running a 24-hour channel can go as high as R1 billion.

This begs the question: where will the funding to launch and run "Gutpa TV" come from? I will be asking questions in Parliament to determine whether there are any plans to channel public funds into the 24-hour news channel and the SABC show.

Under normal circumstances, it should not be necessary to pose such questions, but given the links between the Guptas and government-run institutions, it is essential to ensure that public funds are not being used to drive the agenda of private individuals and political parties.

The New Age has benefited hugely from advertising on the SABC by having its business breakfasts aired at no cost, while it normally charges up to R18 000 for 30 seconds worth of advertising.

In addition, state owned-entities including Telkom, Eskom and Transnet have poured millions into sponsoring these networking breakfasts.

It should also be noted that the proposed news channel comes at a time when the SABC has withdrawn plans to launch its own 24-hour news channel due to lack of funding. I will be asking further parliamentary questions to ascertain whether the SABC has decided to permanently shelve its bid for a 24-hour news channel, and gain clarity on any possible connection between "Gupta TV" and the public broadcaster's decision to withdraw its bid.

In addition, the SABC must also outline what role The New Age will have in the new prime time slot and what procedures were followed in obtaining the slot. Were other news outlets given an opportunity to bid for the same slot?

Given the controversial relationship between the Guptas, their businesses, President Jacob Zuma's family and various government departments and state-run entities, the public needs to be reassured that the news channel and the Sunday Live slot will not be used to further the interests of government and ultimately the ANC.

Marian Shinn, Shadow Minister of Communications

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