THE battle to control South Africa’s resources has now become a battle of ideas – and monopoly capital, which no longer has the authority to control the monopoly of ideas since the creation of ANN7 is panicking and using the Gupta narrative to deflect attention from its economic control to ensure that the black majority does not awake from its mental slumber.
When confronted with concerns in relation to undue influence by owners, the media for years has historically responded by saying that ownership of the media by established white business does not affect nor determine editorial policy. Why is it different today? The argument that has also been advanced is that established business, despite their perceived conflict of interest, merely wants to achieve profitability and creativity without interfering with content, so what is different between them and publisher Mzwanele Manyi?
Is it because Manyi is black and the content that ANN7 elevates finally speaks to the fundamental issues that characterise the inhumane and indecent lives of the black majority – as well as speaking to issues that seek to unravel the unjust patterns of ownership of the economy, which is firmly in white hands? Is this why the likes of Wayne Duvenage want to see ANN7 dead and buried? For the past 23 years, mainstream media has been preoccupied with issues that mainly affect white people – to the point where issues that impact the black majority have not been adequately attended to.
Media diversity by its nature has proved to be good for the consumers of news and ANN7 has demonstrated that it is providing a voice to the voiceless through personalities with a different type of narrative who were not given space in the mainstream media. If Duvenage, the chairperson of Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and his cohorts were to be successful in shutting down ANN7, it would suggest that they are censoring alternative and divergent views. Secondly, there is also the issue of the just employment of media workers who hold a plurality of ideas. The suggestion by Duvenage is part of an agenda to suffocate people who benefit from the existence of ANN7 but most importantly, the channel provides a multiplicity of ideas in a society where the story of the hunted is still told from the perspective of the hunter.
Therefore the conclusion by Duvenage that ANN7 ought to be closed because of what he has termed “state capture” is not only fascist, it is also Verwoerdian because it negates the journalistic argument that owners should not control editorial policy. It also wrongly assumes that the majority of those who consume information from ANN7 cannot think for themselves. The media in South Africa today is still dominated by four big players, Naspers, Primedia, Caxton and foreign-owned independent groups – with less than 16% of ownership in the hands of black business. This has given the fourth estate a monopoly on the type of discourse South Africans can focus on, as long as it’s not unjust economic patterns of ownership, the land question, institutionalised racism or white privilege. Those who own the media are a small group of white males who benefited from apartheid and some implicated and fined for acts of economic terrorism such as price fixing and currency manipulation. Unlike the Guptas, words like corruption are not attached to them because they have found mechanisms which protect these parasitic cartels from being persecuted. They have over years corrupted and continue to corrupt systems in a sophisticated manner, but it’s corruption nonetheless.
This includes the likes of Johann Rupert whose family was part of the economic dynasty which financed apartheid to oppress blacks and yet he enjoys the privilege of media ownership without harassment from the likes of Duvenage. Rupert will never be crucified by the likes of Duvenage because white corruption has been normalised and blacks who want to contest the mainstream economy are demonised. Duvenage would not want to debate the views expressed by ANN7 but would rather prefer ANN7 to be silenced. This is very dangerous to our democracy. This can only lead us to the reasonable conclusion that there exists a monopolised capital which owns the economy of the country and the media and which, in the absence of ANN7, had total authority over the power to define.
This monopoly is sanctioned in collaboration with right wing civil society movements like Outa led by business executives-turned social activists like Duvenage and mainly centred around the exclusion of Africans and black people in general from participating in the mainstream economy. It is within this context that the Progressive Professionals Forum warns Duvenage and his accomplices that if they dare pressure MultiChoice to shut down ANN7 our response will be twice as vigorous in the protection of media diversity and ensuring that an alternative voice from a significant portion of society is heard.
The arrogance of white privilege can no longer continue unchallenged.
Phapano Phasha is the the Progressive Professionals Forum’s spokesperson