TopTV porn plans held up

Research shows porn reduces sex crimes, says TopTV

The South Gauteng High Court today ruled that pay channel TopTV may not flight three pornographic channels without securing the permission of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

Icasa brought an urgent court interdict on Friday to stop TopTV owners On Digital Media (ODM) from launching a stand-alone pornographic package on Friday 20 January, arguing that public consultation was necessary.

TopTV applied to Icasa in September for permission to screen three porn channels. After receiving no response from the regulator after two months, it announced it intended to go ahead without Icasa’s decision.

Icasa spokesman Jubie Matlou told Gateway News that approximately seven oral representations were made today at a half-day public hearing at Icasa’s office in Sandton Johannesburg. He said Icasa would announce its decision on the porn channels “before the 31st of January”.

In a media statement released by TopTV today, after the court interdict ruling, the pay channel says the matter has stimulated fresh debate on adult content with the vast majority of people saying they looked forward to adult content or that it was their democratic right to view content of their choice at home. According to the statement, significant scientific research shows that adult content reduces the incidence of sex crimes.

In a statement released last week, Christian Action Network (CAN), which made an oral submission at today’s Icasa public hearing, says: “We have reports from Safeline and the Teddybear Clinic who counselled children who watched porn films screened on E-TV. Some of these children even sexually abused other children as a result.

“Pornography is as addictive and destructive as drugs. Drugs are illegal, porn should be too. We have far too much violence against women and children. The Attorney General Commission’s Report on Pornography demonstrated clear links between the availability of pornography and the incidence of rape. Pornography is the theory, rape is the practise.”

The CAN statment also dismisses TopTV’s undertaking to implement security measures to prevent children from accessing the porn. It says: “In no way would these porn channels be ‘in the public interest’. Porn channels with pin codes and so-called locking devices would present very little challenge to an increasingly ‘tech savvy’ generation.

The full statement released by TopTV today reads:

Satellite television network, TopTV has noted the court decision interdicting it from launching three adult content channels until a final Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) decision at the end of the month.

Marius Liebenberg, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing at TopTV, says the network is yet to see the court decision, study it and assimilate its implications.

The matter, he adds, has stimulated debate afresh on adult content, its accessibility, the sexual lifestyle choices of people and the very strong reactions – both positive and negative – that the imminent launch of the Adult Pack of channels in South Africa has provoked.

TopTV is not surprised that people opposed to the introduction of adult content on TopTV have been most vocal, Liebenberg says. However, those opposed to the proposed new channels would appear to be in the minority as the vast majority of people who have responded publicly and on social media networks either say that they look forward to the introduction of the adult content, or that it is the entrenched democratic right of people to consume content of their choice in the privacy of their own homes – as long as they do not break the law by doing so.

Public opinion concurs with independent research commissioned by TopTV in its investigation of the business viability of the new channels. In that research, 71 percent of urban adult South Africans agreed that people had the right to view material of their choice – including adult content – in the privacy of their homes.

Sexual rights committee member at the World Association of Sexual Health and clinical sexologist, Dr Marlene Wasserman (known as Dr Eve to millions of South Africans) says strong fears about sexuality continue to be fueled in South Africa. In this context, she says, TopTV’s initiative to create The Adult Pack of channels is a bold move.  Solid and comprehensive sexuality education for both parents and children is absent, she says, and there are scant models for children around healthy relationships and sexuality. Poverty, unemployment, inadequate healthcare and poor education lead to sexual violence. Adult content does not.

The Adult Pack of channels would be carefully managed, Liebenberg says. The content would only be made available as a completely distinct and stand-alone package and would not be integrated into the mainstream TopTV bouquet of programmes and content. Current TopTV subscribers would only have access to the Adult Pack channels if they subscribed to them and paid a distinct subscription fee for them.

It would, in fact, be difficult to access such content. Adult Pack  subscribers would need to:
1. make a conscious decision to subscribe to the Adult Pack at a separate cost,
2. provide adequate proof that they are older than 18,
3. agree to sign up to the additional channels,
4. pay a separate monthly subscription fee of R199 for the adult content that will enable subscribers to view only the adult content, and
5. contact a separate Call Centre number to do so.

There is a significant volume of scientific research on the impact of freely available adult content in societies and communities. This research concurs that this material is not only harmless, but that it also reduces incidence of sex crimes in communities and in countries where people have free, non-stigmatized access to it.

Often-cited research by Berl Kutchinsky, professor of criminology at the University of Copenhagen, for example, found that incidence of rape diminished or stayed relatively level as pornography became more freely accessible in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the USA. The Scientist magazine has published research showing identical findings were recorded in Japan, Croatia, China, Poland, Finland and the Czech Republic. In the USA, there has been a consistent decline in rape over the last two decades as adult content became more readily accessible, The Scientist magazine says.

TopTV has put mechanisms in place to ensure that only those who have elected to subscribe to the service have access to the Adult Pack content. These mechanisms include secret pin codes to protect minors from accessing the material, and encryption on a distinct pay-TV platform. Each time a channel from the Adult Pack is chosen, the secret pin will need to be entered. This will apply, too, when the television set is turned on and during channel surfing in the normal course of television viewing.

It is the right of all adults to view content of their choice in the privacy of their homes, Liebenberg says. It’s a personal choice that adults are entitled to make. Such material is already freely available in the market on mobile telephones, the internet and at specialist outlets. TopTV is satisfied it has more than sufficient mechanisms in place to protect those who are either too young to be exposed to adult television content, or those who take exception to such content. However, TopTV does not apologize for giving those who do wish to view adult content on television access (albeit careful and considered access) to such content.

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