LAST week the Competition Commission announced that it was investigating 28 media companies, including Media24 for collusion on advertising pricing, and that Caxton and Independent Media had already pleaded guilty and/or had paid fines. The investigation avoids the troubling impact of cartel behaviour already demonstrated and reported here and here.
While some may accuse the CompCom of casting its net too wide, it is most certainly picking low-lying fruit and scratching the surface. One can only hope that its next port of call is to investigate the over-concentration and cross-ownership which is stifling journalists and readers alike.
Cartels and monopolies are not simply bad for business and competition but create the situation where news itself is overly centralised and where public opinion is subject to newsroom censorship. The result is bad for democracy and the outcome, the manufacture and manipulation of public opinion, unacceptable in a constitutional state.
THIS week saw apartheid media firm, Naspers in the news with a fresh scandal, large enough to top any previous peccadillo. The sheer amount of opinion pieces generated by South Africa’s media, and the scale and tone of the inquiry into the press is quite impressive. It marks a turning point insofar as a shady history of decades long immunity from criticism is concerned.
At first, the opposition Democratic Alliance, once staunch allies of the firm, but now in a marriage of convenience with the EFF, sought to buttress growing metro and provincial leadership by exposing what appears to be another influence peddling scandal.
The story was quickly picked up by technology and business sites, Business Tech “R100 million influence” MyBroadband “diabolical and secret R550 million” and Business Live “sabc greasing”, showing some disparity in the figures and eliciting Hlaudi counterspin from IOL and a series of Alec Hogg advertorials on Moneyweb “reports malicious” “Naspers not concerned” and also Business Live “not involved”
That Multichoice is involved in a number of corrupt political deals harks back to the founding of the pay channel company under Naspers director PW Botha. The story is not unique so far as this outlet is concerned.
The company simply moved from state capture under the National Party, to state capture under the ANC. All documented here. Massive pay-offs to those in power with the ability to make decisions, appears to have been the norm. Significant too, are the latest attempts by Naspers subsidiary Media24, itself involved in a variety of scandals, to dodge the broader implications of its boardroom being interwoven with a “corrupt nexus” involving Multichoice, to use former editor of the Weekly Mail and adjunct professor of journalism Anton Harber’s term.
Harber who recently moved from his academic post to eTV, an entity itself involved with Multichoice (via Remgro and Kagiso), a little out of character but unsurprisingly given his recent tenure, appears to have equivocated on the issue by writing what can only be termed a Daily Maverick fluff piece in defence of Naspers, urging the company to face up to the charges while painting a picture of an apartheid firm which miraculously transformed itself.
The piece is unfortunately devoid of facts and appears to ignore my own case against the company, and thus the belated apology issued by CEO Esmerie Weideman. Advertising agency executive Deon Wiggett wasn’t having any of this. The founder and creative director of Fairly Famous, “a progressive advertising agency” didn’t buy the spin doctoring and produced what can be called the best roasting of Koos Bekker in the press yet.
The Naspers board issued a statement, proclaiming their 80% owned child to be autonomous, with their shared directors ring-fenced on paper by the law, while major Naspers shareholder Sanlam issued a similar denial of responsiblity. Bob van Dijk’s “its not our problem” defence in this regard can only be described as bizarre.
US law firm Pomerantz announces it is investigating Naspers on behalf of Paypal investors, for securities fraud.
FIN24, the Naspers-Media24 financial news site has been found guilty on one count of copyright infringement.
The South Gauteng High Court found that Fin24 infringed the copyright of one Moneyweb article in 2013, after copying and republishing a substantial part of an original article, and was ordered to pay damages to Moneyweb.
Judge Daniel Berger did not find similar infringements in six other articles and ordered Moneyweb to pay 70% of Fin24’s costs.
These were the main findings in the copyright infringement case Moneyweb instituted in 2013 against Fin24, after Fin24 copied and republished content from various Moneyweb articles. Moneyweb argued that copyright was infringed in seven articles.
Damages in regard to the infringement have yet to be finalised.
You can read the rest of the Moneyweb side of the story here.
And the extraordinary article published by Fin24 claiming it isn’t guilty at all.
WHAT is more embarrassing than Kohler-Barnard tweeting about PW Botha?
SANEF and the Minister of Justice supporting the career of PW Botha at Naspers.
Both parties (Justice and Naspers) have acknowledged papers served in a case before the Equality Court EC19/2015. The case has been brought in terms of the Equality Act, to restore and preserve the TRC Final Report as evidence before the courts, in a suit following the trashing of the report by representatives of Naspers in 2010, which, in and of itself, is a form of unfair discrimination.
The TRC Report details Naspers’ gross violation of human rights of persons such as myself, during apartheid, but was rejected as evidence by Acting Judge Cheadle. The subsequent campaign of opposition to the outcome of the commission was also presented, and now forms part of a broader case of discrimination, flowing from the “repetition of errors” documented by the commission.
Kahanovitz SC previously hauled posts from Medialternatives into the courtroom, in order to demonstrate that, apparently I have a “vendetta against his client” and an ongoing campaign against apartheid, in search of the truth. He is now facing a disciplinary hearing before the Cape Bar Council because of his over-zealous interrogation of my Jewish identity, amongst other things.
In May 2010, Cheadle proceeded to deliver a judgement against me, in my absence, on the basis of my opposition to racism and apartheid. The criminal investigation into his affairs, in particular, a labour brokerage firm with strong ties to Naspers, is now pending a review before the NPS.
Here are links to the documents which have been lodged before the Equality Court
IN FOOTAGE supplied by News24, group manager Ishmet Davidson can be seen lying openly on camera.
Davidson falsely claims that Naspers offered an apology in 1996. The disputed fact, has been refuted by the both the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report.
Medialternatives is in possession of correspondence with the department’s TRC Unit showing clearly that the company did not participate in the commission.
In the video clip, Davidson says:
“It’s not the first time this question came up, should Naspers apologise or not, as a matter of fact it came up with the TRC hearings many years ago, would have been in 1996 or around there, to the best of my knowledge, Naspers did sort of offer some form of an apology, in particular the editors at the time which would have been more Media24 than Naspers.”
He then tells the victims and survivors of apartheid to “move on”
Davidson is the one who should rather “move on”, and get his facts straight, “sort of” since the group of journalists he refers to participated in the TRC in their private capacity.
Neither Naspers, nor Media24 participated in the commission, and no offer of an apology by the company to the victims and survivors of the apartheid system was ever made during this period. Instead the Group sent a copy of its corporate history ‘Oor Grense Heen’, with a letter explaining they did not feel any need to add to this text.
The document was not accepted by the commission.
It was not until the weekend announcement of 25 July 2015 that an apology of any substance was offered. A fact backed up by several news stories on the event, carried by IOL and international media, including Sibusiso Tshabalala writing in Quartz Africa
“When the prominent anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko, was killed in detention, it was Die Burger – one of Naspers’ oldest daily newspapers – which sided with the security police in an editorial, three days after Biko’s death.” writes Tshabalala.
“For many more deaths like Biko’s and hundreds of people who were held in detention, Naspers publications not only towed the Apartheid government’s line, but also began normalizing the ideology of racial segregation – justifying violence of South Africa’s Apartheid government.”
Several titles owned by the company, including Die Burger, have published articles and cartoons critical of the commission, which has been depicted as nothing more than a “biegbank” or confessional.
Naspers former director, PW Botha for example, has been depicted as the only person with any back-bone, able to stand up to the commission.
He refused to participate in the TRC and was instead subpoenaed, resulting in a series of legal drama’s around this precise point. Davidson is thus fraudulently introducing an amendment and revision to the Final Report, in contravention of the TRC Act, establishing the commission.
In further news, Khulumani, the support group for victims and survivors of the apartheid system, has welcomed the weekend’s statements by Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman, but says acknowledgement of responsibility is a first step and the work of the commission must continue.