Gupta's New Age to start TV news channel

2013-02-07 07:42
Johannesburg - The Gupta family's New Age media company will be launching a 24-hour news channel in August.

MultiChoice CEO Imtiaz Patel confirmed to City Press that the channel will be broadcast as part of the DStv premier bouquet. The channel will be taking the place of the SABC's planned 24-hour news channel, which will no longer be airing on DStv.

The New Age was in the news recently after City Press revealed the company receives multimillion-rand sponsorships from state-owned entities to host the New Age business breakfasts.

The Guptas are family friends of President Jacob Zuma. Zuma's son, Duduzane, is in business with the family.

Under construction

Sources within the New Age said they were notified two weeks ago that the company was moving into television. The newspaper's headquarters in Midrand has been under construction with walls broken down to accommodate equipment for the new studio, which will be next to the existing newsroom.

Patel confirmed that MultiChoice would not pay the New Age for hosting the channel.

Industry experts say there has been no indication that the New Age is poaching any technically skilled employees to implement their TV channel plans.

Patrick Conroy, head of the only local 24-hour news network, eNCA, said they have had no indication, no resignations or any attempt to take staff that would indicate the launch of a new channel is imminent.

The channel currently commands over 70% of the total DStv news viewership, according to figures from Markinor.

Rival channels

"I've never heard anything about this and nor have any of the management here," said Conroy.

Asked if a rival channel makes eNCA nervous, Conroy said: "No, frankly. I don't know enough about what they're planning but our strategy has always been to focus on our own game. SABC has also been threatening a 24-hour news channel and the same applies there."

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, chief operating officer of the SABC, has not heard anything about the New Age's 24-hour news channel either.

SABC news channel waiting for DTT

He said the public broadcaster would only be going on air with its own 24-hour news channel once the much-anticipated Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) has been launched, which will be able to carry their channel.

"We decided to revisit our decision to air on DStv, as it will not reach our audience. The only talks we've had with the New Age are about extending the (business) breakfast shows to cater for rural areas. We are moving towards town hall discussion in rural areas," he added.

New Age spokesperson Gary Naidoo has not yet responded to questions.

City Press understands discussion between MultiChoice and the New Age have been ongoing since 2011. The Gupta family's Oakbay Investments is one of the investors in the channel that apparently also has foreign financial backing.

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