THE PAST weeks have seen a tit-for-tat ‘media war’ between local publishers INM and Tiso-Blackstar. Online periodicals and journos are all weighing in. What started out as a sequel to the recent Sunday Times debacle — an opinion piece published by Independent Media, written by one Iqbal Survé — has snowballed into quite a large ball of, well muck.
It all started when The Sunday Times, a weekend paper owned by Tiso Blackstar, was cast ‘under the spotlight’ after its editor, Bongani Siqoko, ‘apologised for a violation of the press code and alleged manipulation of several news stories’ including the so-called SARS ‘rogue unit’.
All good and fine, but then press baron Survé resorted to a hatchet job which really ruffled feathers. Instead of tackling the Sunday Times, Survé chose to smear by extension a reputable sister daily, Business Day. Apparently the Budlender report leads credence to the assertions.
Survé claims, “Sekunjalo are victims of Business Day and its shenanigans and defamatory campaign. There are desperate attempts to characterise the Sekunjalo Group in a negative way using the same Goebbels strategy.”
Which is a bit rich, considering the Cape Times’ own Goebbels strategy. The resulting verbiage escalating into a veritable diatribe against the Tiso Blackstar group in general.
All a case of sour grapes?
Survé’s “The hypocrisy and lies of Business Day” was perhaps aimed at settling scores from an ealier bout of criticism. One which began with the Independent Group’s self-inflicted Desnois controversy, (a media story about the media), shortly after Survé himself, bought the entire group, with a bit of help from the PIC, (a government pension fund).
Thus we witnessed The Times responding with a spin story all of their own, claiming “PIC voiced ‘concern’ about running of Independent Media”
This elicited a strange denial from PIC, which was also moved to reveal its shareholding in South Africa’s press, providing information which parliamentarians in the opposition have been trying to get hold of for decades. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that PIC lists:
1. Independent News and Media South Africa – 25%
2. Tiso Blackstar – 10.999%
3. Naspers 16.585%
4. Caxton – 0.955%
5. Primedia – The PIC is exposed to Primedia through an Private Equity Fund
That is a hell of a lot of press share equity for one pension fund, in effect the government own some serious media clout.
Or were PIC responding to PIC?
The response contains a a real clanger since the writer obviously hasn’t read Chapter 4 of the TRC Report special commission on the media, and is unaware of our own litigation subsequent to the publication of the report.
So this statement is just plain wrong and idiotic. “It is regrettable that the media did not have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This would certainly have surfaced the shenanigans of anti-transformation forces in the media and the network of journalists of a particular generation.”
Not to be outdone, former 24.com editor, Chris Roper weighed in that “Dr Survé is making our democracy sick”. Resulting in an Op-Ed piece by Ayanda Mdlulu, published by the PIC, sorry INM, labeling Roper a racist. Racism at the centre of Roper’s attack on Independent Media
Roper’s ad hominem attack against Survé though badly conceived (surely 24.com is making democracy sick?), was certainly camp, “think of Iqbal Survé, that apparent love-child of a strutting peacock and a cheap piñata. ..Dr Iqbal Survé has already done massive damage to the status of a free press in South Africa. Nobody takes his (and I use the word “his” advisedly) newspapers seriously,” opined Roper.
NM veteran Dougie Oakes’ was however more balsy and to the point.
Time to go, Iqbal paints a picture of an ailing news organisation. “I’ve never come across a newspaper where a persona non grata list of letter writers forms part of its editorial policy,” writes Oakes. Chilling but not hard to imagine, given the machinations of the former Argus Group.
Meanwhile, Hans Pienaar revealed that Vrye Weekblad was all just a right-wing front, which allowed the Nationalists to negotiate a better deal with the ANC.
One wonders why the Mail & Guardian’s Chris Roper felt the need to save the skin of his own “reporters”, that of one Craig McKune, by repeating a journalistic fabrication?
In a piece of rhetoric without any substance, Roper repeats McKune’s allegation that Dr Iqbel Surve, the new head of Independent Media South Africa “accused the M&G of being funded by the CIA”.
Both Roper and McKune should know the difference between an allegation and a question mark, but then, since they are not exactly journalism school graduates, they may have missed courses on syntax and spelling.
In a rather candid interview, Surve called the shots, referring to McKune’s work, as absolute BS and challenging the media house to come clean about its ownership structure, which it subsequently did.
That an editor would take offense so easily speaks miles about the conceit of white South African journalists who believe they have the right to attack their opponents who do not have an equal right to a defense.
While I agree with the sentiment regarding the use of the problematic W. A. R word, (whose phoney war is this?) I most certainly do not accept either of journalism’s mother grundies, Roper nor McKune and their campaign against the use of colourful language, such as that used by Surve.
Sorry Chris, we have not entered the era of the rogue media owner, rather, thanks to social media, we just left it.