The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) did not follow procedure when deciding to allow three adult channels on local television, the Western Cape high court heard on Monday.
Administrative justice had not been promoted and Icasa’s decision should thus be struck down, Murray Bridgman argued on behalf of non-profit organisation Cause for Justice.
He said pornography was an issue that impacted on the community as a whole and on the constitutional rights to dignity, equality and security.
“[There was] one public hearing, one city, one day. Not good enough,” he said. “There should have been meetings in each of the nine provinces and there should have been a far greater level of engagement.”
Cause for Justice, Doctors for Life and the Justice Alliance of South Africa are challenging Icasa’s decision last April to grant a licence to On Digital Media (operating as Top TV and later StarSat) to air the porn channels.
The licence was granted on condition that the three channels be offered as subscribed packages with age verification and other security features.
Bridgman said Icasa’s advert in the Government Gazette inviting public comment did not even mention that the channels were to broadcast porn.
If the public wanted to view the application, they had to make a photocopy at Icasa’s library in Johannesburg.
Judge Lee Bozalek said that despite this, over 600 people had made written submissions as a result of the advert. “If this had been done right, there would have been 1 649 objections,” Bridgman rebutted.
He said the public hearing in March last year gave inadequate time to objectors and denied the Film and Publication Board the chance to make oral submissions.
Icasa’s special committee was criticised for not appointing experts and inspectors to investigate the content of the porn channels and make sure it abided by certain criteria.
Bozalek countered that inspectors could not examine all material in anticipation as it was impractical.
The matter has been set down for argument until Wednesday. — Sapa