Cape Town – A big court clash is coming as South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), has now filed for an urgent court interdict to stop pay TV operator TopTV from pushing through its porn plans until Icasa has held a public hearing.
Icasa, in charge of regulating South Africa's broadcasting industry including pay TV operators, threatened that it will take TopTV to court to prevent the pay TV operator from unilaterally starting a new stand-alone pornographic package
for which it has no approval certificate.
Icasa has now made an urgent court application to block TopTV's porn launch until a public consultation process has taken place.
The urgent court interdict Icasa filed on Monday against TopTV will be heard on Friday January 13. TopTV is reportedly challenging the interdict.
TopTV has continued its push for porn channels before any public hearing on the application has taken place – as is usually the case.
TopTV has made an "application for authorisation" to Icasa to broadcast hardcore pornography as a new separate porn package, and the pay TV operator says according to how it is interpreting the regulations, TopTV has a right to broadcast the new channels.
The stand-alone package of three Playboy TV channels
will have a separate monthly subscription of R199 for the hardcore 24-hour channels.
TopTV's "application for authorisation for channels" appeared in the Government Gazette on November 17 2011. After that the public and stakeholders had two weeks to comment. This period is then followed by a public hearing.
TopTV said in December that as far as the pay TV operator is concerned, "the channels are automatically approved".
Heather Kennedy, vice-president for content marketing at TopTV, said that TopTV's three pornographic channels will "go live within the next two weeks", which means before the end of January.Public hearing on January 16
Icasa filed the court interdict to prevent TopTV from starting its pornographic channels until such time as the public consultation process is completed.
According to industry insiders, Icasa gave TopTV until the end of business on Monday to file answers as an affidavit regarding TopTV's porn plans.
Besides Friday's upcoming court battle, Icasa will call for a public hearing on TopTV's porn plans which will take place on Monday January 16.
Anyone can attend Icasa's public hearing which in all probability will now draw a much bigger crowd than usual since TopTV's porn plans generated extensive interest and reaction and sparked huge debate.
Jubie Matlou, Icasa's senior manager for communications and international relations told Channel24: "Icasa has filed an interdict to prevent TopTV to go ahead with the launch until it has finalised the matter by first conducting public hearings on the initiative next week 16 January." Answers by end January
He said that after TopTV's porn package hearings, Icasa will give an answer and make its findings known by the end of January.
Meanwhile, Icasa received several submissions from the public and industry stakeholders regarding TopTV's porn plans.
TopTV initially told subscribers in November that it will launch its new pornographic channels on December 20. The plan has since been met with widespread vocal public resistance.
The Film and Publications Board (FPB)
also indicated that it will "strongly oppose" TopTV's application.
Different faith-based groups in South Africa have since united in calling for a boycott of TopTV
and TopTV advertisers and have jointly asked TopTV subscribers to cancel their contracts.
"TopTV has responded to the court interdict by undertaking that it is challenging the interdict," said Matlou.
TopTV was asked about the court case and the urgent court interdict set to be heard on Friday. TopTV did not respond.