Icasa about-turn on TopTV porn - TechCentral

Icasa about-turn on TopTV porn

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Financially distressed pay-television operator TopTV has been given the nod by its regulator to broadcast three adult content channels. The company may only broadcast the channels — Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice — between 8pm and 5am, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has ruled.

In a statement, Icasa says the authorisation follows an extensive public consultation process and that there is “no law of general application prohibiting the production and distribution of adult content”. The move is an about-turn for the regulator, which had previously turned down TopTV’s application.

In March 2012 Icasa blocked TopTV’s application to broadcast the new channels, claiming that the “right of women to equality and human dignity overrides TopTV’s right to freedom of expression”.  The authority also argued that pornography was one of the contributing factors to the normalisation of violence against women in South Africa.

TopTV first announced its intention to broadcast pornographic channels in November 2011. Christian organisations threatened to boycott TopTV at the time and the high court ruled in January 2012 that TopTV would require Icasa’s permission to broadcast adult content.

Public hearings were held in March and the broadcaster argued that the proposed channel did not contravene any laws and, in fact, if Icasa refused the request it would be doing so unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

TopTV opted to narrow its application to the effect that it would only broadcast the channels during a “watershed period” of 8pm to 5am.

Icasa approved the application on the basis that TopTV will ensure that the programming will not be broadcast before the watershed period and that security measures, including a double pin code as outlined in the application are in place to “safeguard children’s rights”.

“The authority has considered all submissions made in respect of this application from all interested stakeholders and it was found that most of the representations made were based on moral grounds rather than [based on]research evidence to demonstrate some of the conclusive remarks linking pornography and gender-based violence,” it says. “It is the authority’s view that indeed there is no basis or law for the rejection of Top TV’s application.”

TopTV’s victory comes six months after its management team decided to seek a “business rescue” under section 129 of the new Companies Act. This, it said at the time, would provide a “protective bubble” around it and “buy it some time to complete the search for a strategic equity partner”. The company has struggled to gain traction in a market where MultiChoice, which owns DStv, still dominates.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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