How ANN7 looted SABC archives

Rajesh Sundaram, the author of "Indentured - Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV", a new book which lifts the lid on the previously Gupta-owned news channel, ANN7. Image: SUPPLIED
Rajesh Sundaram, the author of "Indentured - Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV", a new book which lifts the lid on the previously Gupta-owned news channel, ANN7. Image: SUPPLIED

There's "no way" the SABC would know the exact amount of its valuable archive footage that landed with the ANN7 news channel, formerly owned by the controversial Gupta family.

This is according to Rajesh Sundaram, the author of Indentured - Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV, a newly released book which lifts the lid on the influence the Gupta family enjoyed when it launched the channel six years ago.

The 24-hour news channel, now owned by former government spokesman Mzwanele Manyi, allegedly scored itself around 100 hours of valuable SABC archive footage believed to be worth millions of rands after it was allowed access to the public broadcaster's archives despite being a rival.

"From my experience, footage of this nature should cost a few thousand dollars... the 60 to 100 hours ANN7 received should have cost a bomb," Sundaram, ANN7's former editor, said in an interview with Sowetan yesterday.

He recalled that a "small amount" was paid to the SABC but believed it had been "for the books", just to record the transaction.

Sundaram's book prompted the SABC board to launch a forensic investigation into the matter last week.

Sundaram, now based in Chennai, southern India, told Sowetan how ANN7 employee Rahul Singh had spent between four and five weeks at the public broadcaster dailywith blank tapes to record hours of historical footage.

"This was not an auditable (sic) process, with over 60 hours of footage taken, there's no way the SABC could verify and charge for it," he said.

Singh, then ANN7's video librarian from India, digitised and stored the footage at ANN7. He has since returned to India.

Manyi told Sowetan he was "not in a position to comment" on Sundaram's claims because he was not part of ANN7 at that time.

"I was at GCIS in 2012," Manyi said yesterday.

In a statement, SABC board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini said: "The board views this information in a very serious light and has instructed management to conduct a detailed forensic investigation into these revelations and to submit a report to the board.

"This report as well as all other relevant information will also be submitted to the Zondo commission of inquiry on state capture for inclusion in the Commission's investigations."

Sundaram said he was prepared to assist investigators in the SABC's forensic investigations and was even willing to travel to South Africa to give evidence if required.

"My intention with this book was for the people of South Africa to know what went into setting up the ANN7 channel, even though I knew soon after arriving that it wasn't the place for me to be," he said.

Sundaram said he decided to leave the channel after just three months despite being paid about R100000 a month because he couldn't stand the "violation of laws and subhuman conditions" that workers had to endure.

"Employees' phone calls were tapped and their emails monitored."

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