Broadcast Regulation

South Africa: Gupta-linked Group's Application For Free-to-air TV Licence Raises Concerns

Concerned Civil society groups such as Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and Support Our Public Broadcaster (SOS), have written to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) about concerns that bother on by Infinity Media's application for a commercial free-to-air television licence.

Infinity Media is the parent group of ANN7 news channel which was previously owned by the controversial Gupta family now owned by Mzwanele Manyi, a South African businessman.

The concerned groups in a statement released on Tuesday, April 17, said that Free-to-Air television licenses are rarely granted and because they make use of public resources in the form of frequencies, it was necessary to be careful about who gets the licence.

SOS said: “Firstly, it is important to put our attention on the recent scandals in which involves Infinity Media. The crisis of state capture that the country paid attention to for the past year has the family, name of the Guptas, centred around it.”

“Documents that were unveiled by Amabhungane as part of the so-called Gupta-leaks have shown the influence the Guptas possesses and for these reasons Infinity Media’s application must be rejected”.

SOS has announced that both the parliament and Icasa are also investigating Infinity's ANN7.

Other concerns raised by the groups include questions which seek answers as to "who owns and controls Infinity Media?.  Manyi’s the acclaimed new owner has previous connections to political parties. SOS is considering whether it would be in the public interest to allow for the channel to be broadcast.

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

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

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