ANN7 launch was a disaster, ex-editor tells inquiry

2019-06-03 19:57
Former ANN7 consulting editor, Rajesh Sundaram. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

Former ANN7 consulting editor, Rajesh Sundaram. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

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Former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram, who was tasked with kick-starting the channel, has described how the launch of the news station was a "train wreck", adding that he had little say.

Sundaram was testifying at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday. He said for the launch to happen under his watch was "the saddest, saddest day of my life".

He told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Ajay and Atul Gupta had decided to launch the channel without consulting any professionals.

"And for us, we knew that there was a train coming in the opposite direction [at] double the speed and on the same track. We had our hands tied behind our backs, we had to go in for that launch, and we knew it was a disaster but as professionals, we had to commit suicide, there was no other option for us. The technical team was under constant pressure."

Sundaram mentioned some of the challenges faced during the launch, saying that the high-tech studio cameras only came in on the last day, right before the launch.

READ: Zuma had hands-on role in running of ANN7, inquiry hears

He said Atul wanted things to be done fast and that there was a tremendous amount of pressure that he was putting on the technical team. "In my experience a station should be launched only after about a month of dry runs," he added, saying that the news anchors were also not professional journalists, but rather "models".

He said credible journalists did not want to work for ANN7 because of its association with the Guptas and that Atul suggested that they hire models.

"Journalism is not about a pretty face," Sundaram said, adding that reporters needed to have acquired news experience because "you end up becoming a laughing stock if questions are not sharp enough".

"To their credit, they worked really hard, they worked long hours, but they were not being paid much."

He said coming to work in South Africa was a dream of some sort, but he has regrets that he helped set up a station that was used by the "mafia" for purposes of "propaganda".

"This is the biggest regret I have in my life." 

Sundaram detailed former president Jacob Zuma's direct hand in the creation of the now defunct news channel in his book, Indentured - Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV.

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