Local media grifter up to old tricks with Kasi Broadcasting News
At Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s strange media briefing last week, there was a new media outlet on hand making what appeared to be deliberately provocative contributions. The man behind it, Channon Merricks, has a history of dubious ventures.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s bizarre press conference on 13 June saw her face some tough questioning from journalists who found the suspended Public Protector’s claims of a bribery scandal revolving around the late Tina Joemat-Pettersson to be inadequately supported by evidence.
But on hand to ask Mkhwebane some very friendly questions indeed was the representative of a brand new “media outlet” calling itself Kasi Broadcasting News.
A man named Channon Merricks delivered Mkhwebane questions in the form of what Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm termed “little Valentine’s Day cards”, including comparing Mkhwebane’s “martyrdom” to that of Jesus Christ.
Merricks also revealed a particular antipathy towards News24 journalist Karyn Maughan, whom the Kasi Broadcasting News Twitter account frequently singles out for insults.
But who is Merricks, and what is Kasi Broadcasting News?
Website shows little sign of journalism
The Kasi Broadcasting News website is devoted mainly to the sale of shares in the same venture, in a manner highly unlikely to pass muster with financial authorities.
It offers interested investors the chance to buy shares in the business for R1.00, which the website guarantees will be saleable after 12 months for 10 times the value.
“How we will make money, we use your investment to buy Bulk Goods and Services, we get 50% Discount on Bulk Buying per month. We then Resell that Goods and Services to 2 Million KasiPeople at a 20% Markup and we remain the most Affordable. We do this on a monthly basis for 12 months with your Investment,” the website states.
The “broadcasting” or “news” dimension of the business is apparently just one element of what Merricks envisages as a kind of township empire. The website advertises jobs ranging from store managers to warehouse staff to media personnel. Presenters can supposedly expect to earn R15,000 per month, and journalists R10,000.
The website also offers shareholders an additional “income opportunity” if they are willing to spend a certain amount of time per day online “[inviting] family and friends to our social media pages and website, [sharing] our news articles, [promoting] our Goods and Services”.
For six hours’ toil per day on this online “marketing” work, Merricks is offering a salary of R500 per month.
Merricks also claims, falsely, that purchasing shares in Kasi Broadcasting News renders investors eligible for international digital nomad visas.
The Kasi Broadcasting News website features some clearly fake classified listings, while its “Africa news” section consists of just five articles published in May 2023 by Merricks, on topics including “the splendours of the Central Karoo”.
Merricks claims on both his website and the associated Twitter account that the official launch of Kasi Broadcasting News, scheduled for “27-30 July” in Soweto, will be a very grand affair indeed. “VVIP” guests are promised to include Julius Malema, Paul Mashatile, Jacob Zuma and Mzwanele Manyi. Merricks also alleges that 3,500 taxis have been arranged to drive shareholders in convoy from Sandton to Soweto on 27 July.
A would-be media mogul with a chequered past
Channon Lecodey Merricks describes himself on his website as “an entrepreneur from Kliptown, Soweto” who rose from working on the factory floor to becoming an “Underwriting Assistant at Credit Guarantee” before following his dream: “the establishment of Kasi Broadcasting Africa, our services [include] Audio, Video, News, Events, Tours, Stores”.
Yet this is by no means the first flourishing of Merricks’ entrepreneurial spirit. He has previously been involved in multiple failed projects to do with broadcasting and tourism.
Merricks made headlines back in 2010 when he was prosecuted for 28 counts of fraud — after taking multiple investments of R100,000 each for a 2010 World Cup accommodation initiative which failed to get off the ground. The investors lost their money and Merricks never paid them back. A magistrate eventually found him not guilty of fraud, however, on the grounds that he had indeed used the investors’ money for the failed project and not for his enrichment.
There was less sympathy available for Merricks some eight years later when he again hit the headlines for negative reasons.
In 2018, he lured people from jobs at legitimate media outlets by falsely claiming that DSTV had awarded him the broadcasting rights to run a 24-hour news channel to be called Vila Kasi.
Ninety employees were eventually left stranded by Merricks without salaries after working for free for two months.
‘We are here to destroy Naspers, to destroy DSTV, to destroy Daily Maverick’
When Daily Maverick sent Merricks questions about his new media operation on Wednesday, Merricks saw the opportunity for some related publicity — and promptly announced that he would be answering the questions live on Twitter Spaces.
Merricks spent the majority of his address railing against white monopoly capital media and the “stupid” journalist from Daily Maverick who sent him questions.
He claimed Kasi Broadcasting News has “1000 journalists on our books”, pointing to the Russian and Chinese news sections on his website as evidence — despite the fact that those articles are republished from external outlets.
“We are here to destroy Naspers, to destroy DSTV, to destroy Daily Maverick,” Merricks proclaimed.
He claimed that Kasi Broadcasting News’ financial strategy was twofold: that he collected a sizeable commission from taxi ads, and that money flowed from every visitor to his website.
“Every time someone logs on to our platform, Google pays us, the government pays us,” Merricks stated, falsely.
He added that Kasi Broadcasting News journalists could be expected to be regular fixtures at political media briefings from now, because “we get invited to hundreds of press conferences”. (The KBC Twitter account frequently promises to ask “funny questions” at such events.)
After Merricks ended his online rant, which he claimed had been listened to 226 times, he sent the following questions:
Dear Daily Maverick
We have the following questions about your Business:
1: Who owns the Business, Name of Founders , Shareholders and all Staff Members
1 : Whats your Income and Expenses as a Media Entity , how much did you spend on Toilet Rolls in 12 months
Please assist with a copy of your audit financial for the past 5 years
We want to see if your Business Model is running at a Profit or Lost
We waiting your detailed response within 24 hours