New South African news channel launches

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A new 24-hour news channel was launched in South Africa on Wednesday, owned by a wealthy family close to President Jacob Zuma.

Africa News Network 7, ANN7, will focus on "constructive, nation-building stories in the interests of building a culture of unity and pride," according to its website.

Based in Johannesburg and employing more than 75 journalists, the channel is owned by the wealthy Gupta family who moved to South Africa from India.

The family own Sahara Computers and The New Age newspaper, which is considered pro-government.

"ANN7 heralds a new era in news broadcasting which will give South Africans access to both sides of stories of national importance," said CEO Nazeem Howa, quoted by The New Age.

The well-connected Guptas sparked outrage in May after flying in wedding guests from India to a military base on the outskirts of Pretoria.

A probe found that Zuma's name had been dropped to secure landing rights, but that he was not involved in the scandal.

ANN7 is the third round-the-clock TV news channel in South Africa and follows the public broadcaster SABC's launch of a continuous service on August 1.

The 24-hour private eNCA channel went live in 2008.

These three channels are broadcast on the satellite DSTV pay service, which also carries several foreign news channels.

The ruling African National Congress welcomed the new network, saying it "trusts that it will play a constructive role in our national discourse."