HuffPost spoke to some of South Africa's most respected editors on Thursday afternoon, to find out their views on MultiChoice's decision not to renew their contract with news network ANN7, which was formerly owned and originally launched by the Gupta family.
Most of the editors disagreed with the decision – here are their reasons why:
Khadija Patel – editor, Mail & Guardian
"I disagree strongly."
Ferial Haffajee – editor-at-large, Huffington Post
"I broadlydisagree. As an editor, I would like ANN7 to continue broadcasting, but I also appreciate that it is MultiChoice's right to terminate – as it does all the time with [other] channels. ANN7 can find another platform to host, or it can stream – like most television is going to. As a citizen, I'd also like transparency – and to know how many of my tax rands have gone into propping up the Gupta empire, of which ANN7 is the most visible part."
Pieter Du Toit – editor-in-chief, Huffington Post
"ANN7 never was a serious news organisation. It actively promoted the Guptas and state capture, and involved itself in politics. They didn't do news. And given the strained environment, in which the media's credibility is under more scrutiny than ever, they did more damage than good."
Mondli Makhanya – editor-in-chief, City Press
"It's a tough one, but I agree with the decision 100 percent. It's not a straightforward matter of diversity of views – that thing (along with its sister paper) was conceived in sin. As much as we want diversity, we cannot ignore the fact that the media outlets are part of the whole Oakbay / state capture/ money laundering infrastructure.
"So MultiChoice is correct to run a mile and not be contaminated – the end of the contract term is a convenient clean break. The beasts are as disrespectful as ever, but hey – it's your influence and legacy."
Reggy Moalusi – editor-in-chief, Daily Sun
"I don't agree with the decision. The full report must be released."
Waldimar Pelser – editor-in-chief, Rapport
"I think it was correct to decide not to renew the contract with ANN7. There are many ways of arriving at this conclusion, including arguing that the channel was not commercially viable, that it did not reach viewership targets, and that it was the subject of numerous BCCSA complaints, the latter being perhaps the key reason from a journalistic point of view.
"Facts just didn't ever matter to ANN7. What worries me is that the public is left with the distinct impression that ANN7 was brought on board when and because it was politically expedient to do so, and dropped when it was politically inexpensive to do so, now that the ancien régime of Zuptastan is on its knees.
"Furthermore, to stipulate that ANN7's successor will have to show merely that it is black owned in order to satisfy the board's requirement for a plurality of voices, [displays] a disturbingly narrow and simplistic understanding of what 'diversity of views' means and requires. Suggesting that the skin colour of the imagined owners of a future news channel might determine the editorial position of such a news channel smacks of biological determinism and should be rejected by all reasonable citizens.
"One could of course also point out that HCI, the majority shareholder in eNCA's parent company, E Media Holdings, is also black-owned."
Katy Katapodis – editor-in-chief EyeWitness News (EWN)
"We need to properly interrogate exactly what's going on, and what the real motivation is – as there are still too many unanswered questions, and this could have serious implications for our industry."
Sipho Hlongwane – managing editor, Daily Vox
"MultiChoice should have shown substantively where ANN7 made serious ethical breaches which necessitated such a drastic decision. The management did not. It cannot be correct that because MultiChoice disagrees with the editorial content of a channel, it removes it from public viewing. This is contrary to press freedom."
Kevin Ritchie – regional executive editor of Independent Media: Gauteng*
"I think it's the wrong decision, made for the wrong reasons – which seem to suggest expedience rather than principle. MultiChoice should never have paid for ANN7 in the first place, but now – for no real reason, except the shifting tectonic plates in our politics – by killing the contract and actually taking it off air, it has harmed media diversity in the country.
"We need to know the full background to the decision to allow it (and fund it) on air in the first place, and the decision to cull it now."
*This article has been edited to correct an error. HuffPost incorrectly referred to Kevin Ritchie as the editor of The Star. The editor of The Star is, in fact, Japhet Ncube. We regret the error.