MultiChoice to face the music with competition authorities after pulling the plug on Afro Worldview

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Ayanda Mdluli

JOHANNESBURG- A David vs Goliath battle is brewing after a “concerned citizen” decided to take it upon himself to fight back against what many perceive to be an injustice to media freedom in South Africa after MultiChoice, the owners of Dstv decided to pull the plug on Afro Worldview (formerly ANN7) earlier this year after it was taken over by businessman Mzwanele Manyi.

Africa News 24-7 can exclusively reveal that an activist who goes by the name of Mothusi Tsineng has approached both the Competition Commission and the Competition Tribunal to address allegations of market dominance abuse and force MultiChoice’s hand to have Afro Worldview reinstated on Dstv.

According to Tsineng, given that MultiChoice owns 98% of the Pay TV market in South Africa, steps should be taken to break down its monopoly so that other viewpoints on current affairs can be accommodated in order to ensure vibrant democratic processes in South Africa.

In January this year, MultiChoice terminated its contract with ANN7 citing mistakes in handling issues surrounding the channel with was previously owned by the controversial Gupta family. Even after Manyi rebranded the channel and the New Age titles after taking over, it was not enough as MultiChoice proceeded with shutting down the station.

Documents seen by Africa News from Tsineng allege that this was a violation and abuse of being a monopoly in the market. Writing to the Competition Commission earlier this year, Tsineng alleges that MultiChoice could have abused their position in the market by removing or alternatively cause the removal of Afro Worldview.

The letter to the Competition Commission further stated that there was no other available platform for the company to air its content.

According to an affidavit written by Tsineng and submitted to the Competition Tribunal, MultiChoice did not offer an essential facility to Afro Worldview which is why Afro Worldview was unable to broadcast, subjecting it to a bidding process yet the SABC, whose contract had also lapsed in the same month as that of Afro Worldview continues to broadcast on Channel 404 without any bidding condition being imposed. He further argued that both companies are “horizontal” competitors, and this was proof that there was an unwarranted bias against Afro Worldview.

“Also, there is a public interest concern that should be raised as there will be job losses. These job losses include journalists and analysts from a grassroots level who have found a breakthrough in the media platform…If there was any other platform, access would be limited to a few South Africans owning to exorbitant data prices. Their removal has swelled the ranks of unemployment as the company employed 350 people. South African competition law and policy has among its tenets, public interest. This includes protecting the employment of South Africans when necessary,” said Tsineng.

He said he was confident that the channel would be reinstated on the grounds that MultiChoice engaged in anticompetitive conduct and the removal of the channel inconvenienced thousands of consumers and infringed on the right to freedom of choice.

The Competition Commission and the Competition Tribunal have since confirmed receipt of the cases and will be heard after 15 days pending an investigation

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