MultiChoice fined for age restriction error

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) has fined MultiChoice R20 000 for inadvertently displaying a PG13 rating on its electronic programme guide (EPG) for a film that was in fact rated 18LV.

A BCCSA tribunal upheld the complaints of two viewers, Debbie Hubbard and Bonnie Warburton, that MultiChoice’s action resulted in the failure of the parental guidance lock system that they relied on to protect teenage children under their care from watching harmful material. They said the notification failure was especially serious on a Friday evening when many children are allowed to go to bed later than during the week.

The tribunal, which heard the matter on June 14, found that the horror images in the science fiction/horror film, Daybreakers, screened on M.Net channel 101 on Friday April 15 was not at all suitable for children, that they could be very scary to a substantial number of children, even between 14 and 18, and that they could lead to nightmares.

MultiChoice argued that there was partial compliance with the BCCSA Code because the film was broadcast at 21h30 (well after watershed); that the correct advisory (18LV) was displayed on screen as well as announced; and that such errors are not repeated by the same channels. The broadcaster pleaded partial compliance to the Code and argued for reprimand as sanction.

The tribunal commissioner, Dr Linda Venter, accepted MultiChoice’s apology, but ruled that the error amounted to aggravated negligence and that there was a clear transgression of the Subscription Code. A fine of R20 000 was imposed to demonstrate that it was a serious transgression, given the fact that parents and caretakers should be able to rely on correct advisories in order to utilise the parental locking system correctly. BCCSA Chariperson Prof JCW  van Rooyen and Commissioners Robin Sewlal and Tembeka Mdlulwa concurred with the judgment which was disclosed to the media today.

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