A deal has been struck that will save the 76-year-old South African Press Association, Sapa’s board announced last night. The deal involves a decision to “reconstitute and commercially revamp the news agency”, the board said in a statement. This means Sapa’s original non-profit model has been cast aside in favour of a “commercial entity which will be capitalised and briefed to become a modern fully multimedia provider of news coverage of and to South Africa and the African Continent”.
Sapa originally ran into trouble when a number of its shareholding members resigned, including Times Media Group and Caxton. Independent Newspapers was due to pull back in November. More recently, Agence France Presse ended its “mutually beneficial” relationship with Sapa, citing a changing media landscape in South Africa has necessitated the exploration of new commercial approaches in keeping with AFP’s growth goals for the African region”, according to Harry Lee-Rudolph, AFP’s commercial manager for Southern Africa.
But the new company appears to now have an expanded shareholder base including the remaining newspaper companies (Media24 and Independent Media), but boosted by “investment and participation by other media-based companies who see value in the project and especially in the benefits of a vibrant, cost-effective and autonomous South African and African multi-platform news agency”.
These include “interested parties” such as Gallo Images, which earlier tabled a firm proposal to the board and another interested party in the form of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium as a major shareholder in Independent Media), which also submitted an expression of interest. Then there’s Moeletsi Mbeki’s KMM Review Publishers, which is involved in a range of businesses including publishing and television productions.
The Sapa board is in the process of developing options for the reconstitution of the business, for presentation to and discussion with those parties that have submitted expressions of interest, it said in a statement.
In the meantime, a new board has been appointed with Minette Ferreira, currently general manager of Media24 News, as its chairwoman. At a meeting held on 2 September, Fergus Sampson of Media24 and Dave Tiffin of Independent Media were elected to the board. The Citizen’s Piet Greyling, who had formerly represented The Citizen as a member group prior to its resignation, was reappointed a director with confirmation that his group was returning to Sapa as a full member. The new appointments join the existing directors Tony Howard, of Independent, and Adriaan Basson of Media24.
Because Sapa has until now been a Section 21 not-for-profit business, which will have to be dissolved before a new commercial entity is launched. This will be done with “full due legal processes and with complete transparency”, the board said.
“Particular attention will be paid throughout this process to ensuring the interests of all employees of Sapa are meticulously and correctly attended to, as well as seeking where possible to maximise opportunities for these staffers within the new company,” it said.
“The principal decisions to secure Sapa’s future have been confirmed. We expect the implementation phase to start very soon and will issue further statements in due course,” Ferreira said adding that the board is committed to ensuring the current news agency’s autonomy on producing credible and independent editorial content is continued.
Independent external experts will be engaged to carry out the complex brief of reconstituting Sapa, with an instruction to start work without delay.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.