Cape Town – Chantal Rutter Dros is quitting ANN7 (DStv 405) and will be reading her final TV news bulletin on ANN7 Prime tonight. Staff discord, internal unhappiness, and multiple personnel exits continue to rock South Africa's third 24-hour TV-news channel from Infinity Media known as "Gupta TV".
Chantal Rutter Dros has been ANN7's main news anchor and highest profile get when ANN7 started with a disastrous launch in August last year on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.
The channel came in for ongoing public mockery for its litany of on-air mistakes, technical issues and amateur news readers – mostly female models – struggling to read and pronounce words and names correctly.
Since then the TV-news channel which has pumped hundreds of millions of rand into its operations in Midrand has worked hard to gain credibility but it's been difficult with ongoing on-air mistakes which makes it hard for viewers to trust ANN7's coverage or take it seriously.
The death and funeral coverage of Nelson Mandela, as well as the South African of the Year Awards 2014 which were both successfully executed projects helped to improve ANN7's public image.
Chantal Rutter Dros confirmed to Channel24 that she is leaving; asked why and what she will be doing next, she said that she "resigned for personal reasons. My last day is December 3. I am taking December off and I will evaluate my options in January".
She said that she is "not at liberty to comment on any of the other resignations as that is a station matter".
ANN7 told Channel24 it would announce a replacement for Chantal Rutter Dros "soon" but has been been silent; it's not clear who will be sitting behind the anchor desk at ANN7 Prime from tomorrow night.
ANN7 was also only willing to say that Chantal Rutter Dros resigned for personal reasons.
Ongoing high profile ANN7 exitsEarlier this year Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon and her show Vuka Africa were gone from ANN7 barely months after the breakfast show was launched with big fanfare. ANN7's morning has been retooled with the credible Peter van Onselen and a straight news approach.
Also suddenly gone from ANN7 is Dave McGregor who was the general manager for operations at ANN7.
ANN7 confirmed McGregor's departure and tells Channel24 "Dave resigned in October citing personal reasons and his position has been taken by Quraysh Patel".
Quraysh Patel who worked at the IBA, the frontrunner of the current South African broadcasting regulator, Icasa, worked at e.tv as channel director and COO, later joined SABC3 and was chairperson of the Sentech board in 2010.
Also gone from ANN7 is Asanda Magaqa who was escorted off the ANN7 premises and her weekend show, Between the Lines, cancelled.
Tensions started between Magaqa and ANN7 management when she presented the daily South African of the Year Awards inserts and interviews and was supposed to host the awards, only to be dumped shortly before the ceremony for allegedly asking too much money.
"Between the Lines has been postponed for now to rework the structure of the programme and presentation due to the declining viewership numbers," says ANN7.
"We are also resolving staff contractual issues. We will bring back the revamped show with the new features to make it more attractive to the viewers."
Also gone is the respected assignments editor Clinton Nagoor who also quit. It's not clear whether Hajra Omarjee is staying with ANN7 or also heading towards the door.
Hotbed of unhappinessInternally, according to reports, ANN7 is a hotbed of unhappiness and staff discord, with personnel allegedly tired and fed-up with low pay, bad treatment, grueling working conditions and cost cutting.
Asked if ANN7 believe workers are treated unfairly the news channel on DStv says "all employees are treated fairly".
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) submitted a list of grievances to ANN7 management, alleging poor pay, forced overtime without pay, a shortage of vehicles to cover the news, no sick bay, unfair labour practices and ill-treatment of staff.
ANN7 tells Channel24 the CWU demands are "a figment of someone's very fertile imagination".
According to insiders MultiChoice is not happy with the performance of ANN7 this year, although it's not clear whether it is in regard to viewership numbers, channel content like visuals and sound, news quality or other aspects.
According to insiders ANN7 has also struggled to attract advertisers who want to be associated with the channel.
MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry is only willing to say "we constantly monitor and review the performance of all channels on DStv. We don't comment on the performance of individual channels, as we engage directly with them if there are any specific issues".
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