South African-based pay-TV broadcaster MultiChoice has strongly refuted that it paid any bribes or kickbacks in regard to the fees paid by the broadcaster to news channel ANN7, or to the public broadcaster SABC in relation to the provision of set-top boxes for reception of the country’s digital terrestrial services.
The allegations are creating something of a media storm in South Africa.
SABC’s chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, in a November 29th statement said the public broadcaster’s board distanced itself “from the alleged unlawful behaviour” and noted that the contents of the above mentioned minutes is why the MultiChoice agreement was referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU, of the South African police) “for urgent investigation”.
“The MultiChoice agreement was first brought to Parliament’s attention during [the] Ad Hoc Committee’s inquiry into the SABC last year and, like the 2017 interim board before us, the SABC Board and management will continue to cooperate with any investigation into the alleged wrongdoing that led up to the signing of the MultiChoice Agreement,” said the SABC.
The MultiChoice statements come after allegations from a South African opposition political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), that MultiChoice paid around Rand 100 million to SABC.
In particular the DA says that official minutes from a meeting held in June 2013 form part of hundreds of documents provided by the SABC to the ad hoc committee investigating the SABC and they allege supports allegations that MultiChoice paid ANN7 millions of rand in exchange for similar influence over government’s position on set-top boxes.
Local reports say that the minutes appear to confirm that, for MultiChoice, the deal with the SABC for a news and an archive-based entertainment channel on their DStv platform was hinged on the future TV market and set-top box encryption as the “dealbreaker”.
The DA politicians say they are lodging the papers and related e-mails that they have with the nation’s broadcasting regulator ICASA for investigation.