TopTV tells Icasa it only wants to screen porn after watershed

TopTV says it now is only seeking to broadcast pornography during the so-called ‘watershed period’ from 20:00 to 5:00.

On Digital Media (ODM) which owns TopTV stated its case to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in Johannesburg today. Last year Icasa turned down an application by the pay TV operator to launch three 24 hour porn channels.

The struggling ODM, which is under business rescue, was represented at today’s public hearing by a high powered legal and professional team which included well-known psychologist and women’s rights activist Dr Marlene Wasserman, better known as Dr Eve.

Simon Woodland, Chief Financial Officer for ODM, said the company employs 250 people and indirectly supports thousands of installers. He said that the proposed three porn channels (Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice) would not solve the company’s financial difficulties but would provide a good kickstart.

He said TopTV will have safeguards in place to protect children from viewing the porn channels. Prospective subscribers over 18 years of age will be provided with a 4-digit pin only after their ID documents and bank details have been verified.

Freedom of expression
Steven Budlender, for Top TV, said the broadcaster’s application is within their rights of freedom of expression according to Section 16 of the Constitution. He said there is no law prohibiting the proposed sexual content and that TopTV will comply with the Code of Conduct for Subscription Broadcasters. He said children are already exposed to adult content via other media such as DVD’s and the internet.

Dr Wasserman said the most common factors behind family breakdowns are the absence of men, HIV/Aids deaths, migration and addiction.

She said that a variety of factors accounted for violent behaviour toward women which was not based on explicit material alone. She said there was evidence that non-violent sexual material actually leads to less sexual violence. Commenting on the impact of sexual material on adolescents, she said it creates understanding and interest in their own sexuality and that the vast majority of this material is “healthy and natural”.

ODM Vice President Sonti Lurayi said there was no evidence of any connection between the provision of non-violent sexual material and violent crime against women or men. She presented research data showing the opposite.

Porn degrades women
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) researcher Linda Yates said pornography degrades women.

She said: “It forgets that we have minds, hearts and souls as well as bodies. It reduces us to objects. In fact, if we do not have bodies that fit certain criteria decided on by others, it does not just reduce us to objects – it reduces us to ugly objects.

“Pornography corrupts morals. It persuades its viewers that pleasure is all that counts, that selfishness is acceptable, that others do not have feelings worth considering.

“Pornography increases divorce. It makes marriage look irrelevant; it makes one’s spouse look ugly and unloving; it makes wives jealous and husbands dissatisfied.

“Almost 80% of South Africans are Christian. This information is the most up-to-date information from a government website. While the ACDP believes in freedom of religion, we do not believe that atheists have the right to insist that Christians practise freedom FROM religion.

“Internet surveys are biased – only one-third of SA households have Internet. ODM cannot make real conclusions about what SA thinks based on Internet surveys. Most of us don’t do them because we don’t have a computer in our studies. Most of us don’t have studies. In this very wealthy province of Gauteng, one-fifth live in shacks, one-third are unemployed and 2,4 million out of our population of 12,3 million are living below the poverty line. “

“Against the statistical report supplied by the ODM completed on about 500 people of which more or less 70% was in favour of channels with adult content, the ACDP supplied a different statistic: ’41 000 said NO to DSTV porn in 2010. Solidarity did a survey when DSTV was thinking of introducing porn channels and over 41 000 South Africans responded with shock and horror. DSTV promptly withdrew its market research. These were no doubt wealthy people with access to the Internet.’ ”

Unsupervised children
Yates said that according to the Sexual Offences Act of 2007, it is an offence to expose a child to pornography. She noted that 9 million SA children live in single-parent homes. Many children come home to empty houses. They are unsupervised and on the way home from school might stop off at a tavern that has decided to screen TopTV porn, or might go to a friend’s house.

“Sugar-daddies will love TopTV; child molesters will see it as a gift!” she said

The ACDP suggested some alternative ideas for TopTV to save the company and jobs. The suggestions are:

  •  Buy local movies made by our youth
  • Find the best Maths and Science teachers in each province and broadcast their lessons
  • Screen adult education, not “adult” entertainment — e.g. language learning, vegetable growing, mechanics, DIY, sewing, shoe-making, local crafts.
  • Show keep-fit sessions led by celebrities
  • Have Randall Abrams go under-cover in some of our public hospitals
  • What about an SA version of Top Gear run by taxi-drivers?

Family Policy Institute President Errol Naidoo said: “In response to Mr Eddie Mbalo’s (TopTV head) response to Icasa, I would suggest that Top TV is glossing over the submission stats.

  1.  32.3 million South Africans 18-yrs or older and saying that therefore the 456 submissions received are “not statistically relevant”. How many 18 yrs and older people have TV or are literate enough to make a submission either way on the TV porn issue? If a household has on average 3 people 18 yrs or older, then we are looking at 10 million potential TV owners (at one TV per household). But how many households in SA actually have TVs? Of relevance is the number of TV owners.
  2. Statistically, 96% of the submissions actually received are against. If, as they argue, the majority of South Africans want the channels, and the pro-porn advocates know full well that there are likely to be submissions against what it is that they all claim to want, then why have the pro porn advocates not bothered to fight for what they purportedly want? Given that there are such a low percentage of submissions in favour of the porn channels, it can be argued equally well that the 4% submissions in favour represent an accurate assessment of the real level of interest in porn channels on TV.”

With regard to the legal argument Naidoo said according to the Bill of Rights: “the rights of the weakest members of society to protection – in this case, children – trump the rights of everyone else to freedom of choice etc. “Section 28 of the Constitution states that the best interests of a child are of primary importance in every matter affecting the child2,3”

Responding to Sonti Lurayi’s statement that the incidence of rape in the US since the 1970s has fallen by 85% despite an exponential increases in the availability of adult and pornographic material via literature, TV and Internet, Naidoo said: “The rape decline was from the 1970s to 2003 (over a 30 year period), whereas internet porn was introduced only about 20 years (a whole generation) after the beginning of the rape stats decline, and even then relatively few people had personal computers in the 1990s. So unless it can be shown that there was virtually no decline until the mid-1990s and that the decline was then steep and paralleled the increase in internet pornography consumption (where are the stats?), then the statement is misleading and meaningless. The meaningful statistic would be to look at the time frame since the ubiquitously increasing use of internet in the last ten years – and I suggest that you would find that rape statistics are now on the increase.”

Naidoo said: “Even if the parents and children watch separate TVs in different rooms or the parents watch porn after their children are asleep – unless the family lives in a huge house, there is also the sound emanating from the TV. How does one explain this to curious small children? What about slightly older children who are highly offended thereafter, having stumbled upon a porn programme and now know the context of the televised sound? “

Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said in an interview that all oral and written submissions would be considered prior to a ruling.

2 Comments

  1. Claude Cunningham

    There’s not enough comment that the inevitable result of increased pornography, which licenses lewd behavior and portrays damaging relationships as pleasurable and desirable, will be increased abortion, STD’s, teenage pregnancies and prostitution. Suicide, murder, family breakdown, divorce and the traumatisation of children will follow. All of these burden the State financially and harm society. It is ridiculous to pretend that pornography, in any form, is healthy or realistic. It is certainly damagingly addictive to many, and should be viewed as such – Pornography stores (The term “Adult” is totally inappropriate here) should be forced to display health warnings as do liquor and tobacco outlets.

  2. Rev Ian Karshagen

    It’s amazing how a company such as this cares so little for people that it is willing to see moral decline just to make itself financially comfortable ..! Disgusting!