Concerns raised as Gupta-linked group applies for free-to-air TV licence

Civil society groups, the SOS Coalition: Support Our Public Broadcaster (SOS) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), have written to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) following concerns surrounding the application for a commercial free-to-air television licence by Infinity Media.

Previously owned by the controversial Gupta family, Infinity Media is the parent group of DStv’s ANN7 news channel and is currently owned by businessman Mzwanele Manyi.

In a statement released on Tuesday (17 April), the groups said that Free-to-Air television licenses are extremely infrequently granted, and because they make use of precious public resources in the form of frequencies, it was important to apply great scrutiny to those who are to be granted such licence.

“Firstly, it is important to highlight the recent scandals that have surrounded Infinity Media. The crisis of state capture that held the attention of this country for the last year or so has effectively centred around a single family, namely the Guptas,” SOS said.

“The Gupta family, who previously owned Infinity Media (ANN7), have not only been the subject of several international headlines but have also been embroiled in broadcasting scandals as well.

“Documents uncovered by Amabhungane as part of the so-called Gupta-leaks, have revealed the extent of the influence of the Guptas, and, in particular, of its channel currently broadcast on DStv, namely ANN7,” it said.

SOS added that both parliament and Icasa are currently conducting enquiries into ANN7.

“For this reason alone, Infinity Media’s application must be rejected,” it said.

Other concerns raised by the groups include questions as to who actually owns and controls Infinity Media, Manyi’s previous connections to political parties, and whether it would be in the public interest to allow for the channel to be broadcast.

Infinity Media previously applied for a free-to-air TV licence in 2014, during Icasa’s last invitation to apply.

Icasa said at the time that there was non-compliance related to foreign ownership, finances, ownership by historically-disadvantaged persons, and cross media ownership that exceeded the regulatory provisions.

Read: Talks on DStv’s ‘monopoly’ are moving ahead – here are 6 things that Icasa wants to change

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Concerns raised as Gupta-linked group applies for free-to-air TV licence