A NEWS channel controlled by the Gupta family went live on DStv channel 405 on Wednesday, adding to the increasing number of 24-hour news channels on the network.
Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) is funded by the Gupta family and by President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane through the Infinity Media consortium.
The new station, based in Midrand in the same building as the Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper, is a significant operation and will launch with 150 journalists plus other support staff.
DStv already has eNCA (from e.tv), CNBC Africa, BDTV and recently added another 24-hour news channel produced by the SABC.
Despite criticism of the Guptas’ close alliance with the Zuma family, The New Age and ANN7 editor-in-chief Moegsien Williams said the channel would strive to be balanced in its reporting.
"Some of us who were labelled as media terrorists in the past have always said that media multiplicity is a key to democracy," he said. "The producers and journalists are ready to bring the story as it happens with depth and perspective.
"We want to bring a balanced discourse from all sides of the story, expose corruption and maladministration where we find it, and highlight stories that affect the ordinary man."
Communication Minister Yunus Carrim said ANN7 shared several principles with the SABC.
"Even though there will be competition we hope that there can be collaboration," he said.
The CEO of MultiChoice SA, Collins Khumalo, said the channel was a key element of increasing locally produced content on DStv.
"When we started implementing our strategy of increasing local content on DStv we did not only look at general entertainment but also at news and actuality programming," he said. "We look forward to welcoming ANN7 onto our platform."
ANN7 will have dedicated teams for the different news segments ranging from politics, to business, sports and entertainment news.
Presenters include Chantal Rutter Dros, who will host news shows, Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, who will host Vuka Africa, kwaito star Arthur Mafokate, who will host a weekly sport show, and Jimmy Manyi, who will host a weekly talk show.
The New Age was launched in June 2010 under TNA Media. Until now, The New Age has been hosting and sponsoring regular breakfast briefings screened on the SABC. These have been popular with government departments, especially as campaign tools ahead of next year’s elections.
CEO of Underdog Productions Marc Schwinges said the increasing influence of the politically connected Guptas was a threat to objective media coverage.
"As with the (TNA) newspaper this is concerning," he said. "It’s very hard to judge until you see the channel but to me the premise sounds like a Nazi state of increasing government propaganda."