S. African station hits racism row

Critics: Web falls short of black empowerment vow

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s newest TV station, Midi Television, has been hit by a row over its black empowerment commitments.

Midi chairwoman Nomazizi Mtshoshisa brought simmering tensions in the consortium to a head when she accused management of “backtracking broken promises and broken trust.” Warner Bros. has a minority stake in the station.

She complained further that station’s management is “densely white.”

Midi, due to launch a free-to-air channel on Oct. 1, comprises Warner, Hosken Consolidated Investments — a holding company of South African clothing workers and miners — black empowerment group Vula, and a host of minority shareholders, including youth groups and media companies.

Mtshoshisa, who also heads Vula, says promises to launch the station as “being different and truly South African” have not been fulfilled.

Other motives

Other Vula execs have claimed that management is intent on turning Midi into a Americanized free-to-air station.

Analysts said that the heart of the clash is a difference in style — Vula, which owns about a third of Midi, comprises former anti-apartheid activists who want greater workplace democracy and social responsibility.

Managing director Jonathon Procter, a veteran TV exec, is a hard-nosed businessman intent on making the station fly on deadline.

Procter warned this weekend that if Vula were found to be endangering the economic future of Midi, it could face legal action from other shareholders — or even be booted out of the consortium.

He said Midi, with 77% black management, had already met its license commitments of 40% black staff within four years.

Vula said at the weekend it had no intention of pulling out of Midi.

A board meeting early this month is expected to try to defuse the row.

Repeated attempts to elicit comment from Midi proved futile.

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