Multichoice and some news

DSTV has always been a contentious subject amongst South Africans.  Multichoice paved the way for pay-tv with the introduction of Mnet in the mid-80’s; following this, they introduced the digital satellite service DSTV in 1995 effectively becoming a monopoly in South Africa. High costs, many repeats and channel binding seem to show Multichoice as the face of corporate greed,  and a product set that leaves much to be desired. It’s no wonder that in recent times, millennials and others, have been leaving the channel in droves, and looking at alternatives like Netflix and Multichoice’s own streaming solution, Showmax.

However there is now another reason to leave DSTV/Multichoice – it seemingly appears they have been complicit in funding the Guptas, albeit indirectly through (very) large payments to ANN7, the formerly-owned Guptas propaganda mouthpiece. Most of us know ANN7 as a channel that spews non-factual nonsense concerning everyday events in SA.

Multichoice have allegedly paid ANN7 around R250 million over the last 5 years to ‘host’ the ANN7 channel on DSTV. Multichoice had been lobbying former comms minister Muthambi to push through a decision in favour of encrypted set-top boxes for another controversial project, SABC’s Digital TV migration. That project is now mired in legal squabbles over tender and project irregularities due to the question: should the set-top boxed be encrypted or not?

In actual fact, the question comes down to: should the boxes be allowed to host paid-for content/channels (read Multichoice) as opposed to only free-to-air channels. There are opposing views on whether allowing encryption would benefit poorer households. One view is that if decryption had been included in STBs, some poorer households may eventually have been able to purchase pay TV channels without having to buy completely new devices. An opposing view is that since the STBs are going to the country’s poorest people, it would be predatory to use these households as the foundation for a new business venture.

So the question comes back to why have Multichoice (and indirectly its parent Naspers) been paying ANN7 what appears to be a lot of money, for a channel that is by all accounts, a Gupta mouthpiece? Some may argue that this was done to curry favour with the Guptas who seemingly have extended their influence into every sphere of government. Some might argue further that the Guptas had enough pull in government circles to get the vote regarding STBs, to swing in Multichoice’s favour.

Whatever the reason is, Multichoice paying to host ANN7, has irked many in South Africa. A number of other companies, including global-based like KPMG, SAP and McKinsey, have been implicated in irregular dealings with Gupta-affiliated companies and Multichoice’s actions in this matter paint them in a similar light.

The fact is that the South African public may have unwittingly been party to, and funding, corruption through their monthly DSTV premiums. That does not sit well with many.

While Multichoice continues to tout impressive statistics for their pay-tv membership, I think the truth is slightly different and with alternatives becoming available, things are likely to change further.

I left DSTV over 3 years ago and have never looked back. I know many others in my peer group who have done the same. It’s only diehard sports fans who remain loyal to DSTV’s admittedly good sports channel lineup, although the fact that you need their premium package for this, grates.

Will you stay with DSTV?

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