WHO CON­TROLS THE ME­DIA?

Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

In more ma­ture democ­ra­cies, it ’s a given that me­dia are of­ten founded by peo­ple who want to push po­lit­i­cal or so­cial re­form. The New York Times was founded by Repub­li­can con­ser­va­tives in 1851, although it has be­come de­cid­edly more lib­eral in re­cent decades. Sim­i­larly, Bri­tain’s Guardian was started in 1821 by a group of busi­ness­men who wit­nessed the Mas­sacre of Peter­loo (which fol­lowed the Napoleonic Wars) and were hor­ri­fied. They wanted to use the press to ad­vo­cate re­form and civil lib­erty.

Own­er­ship of the pub­lic dis­course is hotly con­tested lo­cally by the rul­ing party, and with op­po­si­tion par­ties in­creas­ingly con­sol­i­dat­ing un­der an op­po­si­tion um­brella, po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est in the me­dia is sig­nif­i­cant. That’s why when it was an­nounced that Sekun­jalo’s Iqbal Survé was set to be­come South Africa’s lat­est me­dia mogul, it was as­sumed that this move was po­lit­i­cal. In mid-Fe­bru­ary it was an­nounced that a con­sor­tium led by his in­vest­ment com­pany, Sekun­jalo, suc­cess­fully bid R2bn to buy In­de­pen­dent News and Me­dia South Africa from its debt-laden own­ers in Ire­land.

The heads of agree­ment are done, but the of­fer must still be ap­proved by the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion, and share­hold­ers of In­de­pen­dent News and Me­dia Plc. The be­lea­guered Dublin-based me­dia com­pany has been look­ing for a buyer for

and , to­gether with a num­ber of other news ti­tles; while In­de­pen­dent’s mag­a­zine di­vi­sion pub­lishes House & Garden, Glam­our and GQ for this mar­ket.

Survé scoffs at the idea that his move into me­dia is in any way par­ti­san, de­spite his hav­ing beat a num­ber of other po­lit­i­cal or well-con­nected suit­ors to the spoils. Other big names who were re­port­edly vy­ing to bring the In­de­pen­dent back home were Moeletsi Mbeki – the busi­ness­man and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst who’s Thabo’s brother and is said to be the mas­ter­mind be­hind Mam­phela Ram­phele’s po­lit­i­cal plat­form, Agang; busi­ness ty­coon-cum-ANC deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa; the Gupta fam­ily who started pro-Government news­pa­per The New Age and who have min­ing in­ter­ests with pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s son; as well as former union­ist and e.tv boss, Mar­cel cel Gold­ing.

“This is a busi­ness trans­ac­tion and any­body who says the deal is po­lit­ica l l y mo­ti­vated is s speak­ing ab­soolute non­sense,” e,” says Survé, a former med­i­cal doc­tor-turned-in­vestor es­tor whose Sekun­jalo has in­ter­ests in the fish­ing, fi­nan­cial, health­care, tech­nol­ogy, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and biotech­nol­ogy sec­tors.

Survé says the de­ci­sion was about se­cur­ing a highly prof­itable in­vest­ment. “In­de­pen­dent News Me­dia’s prof­its are pub­li­cally dis­closed and you are talk­ing al­most R350m to R400m in prof­itabil­ity,” he says, adding that Sekun­jalo will be paying about two thirds of what Mve­laphanda paid for Avusa. “It is a su­per busi­ness with a strong ti­tle base, a strong con­tent plat­form, good his­tory and good peo­ple in the tong

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