Mixed reactions to TopTV porn approval

2013-04-29 13:07
 
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Cape Town – Reaction is widespread, mixed and ongoing after South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) approved On Digital Media's (ODM) plan to broadcast three sex channels.

ODM, which runs the struggling TopTV satellite pay-TV service, has been in business rescue since October 2012. ODM is hoping to stave off liquidation by courting approval for a massive capital injection bail-out from China's StarTimes.

The Chinese media group could become a business partner and is willing to pump millions into the loss-making Woodmead-based operation. Another new bid from a South African consortium has also been received.

TopTV wants to broadcast the three TV channels – Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice – as a separate bouquet and will run with a rating classification of R18. The channels are provided to TopTV by Playboy TV UK / Benelux Limited in England and are uplinked through SES Platform Services in Munich, Germany to South Africa.

'Risk alienating core subscribers'

TopTV's application for authorisation provoked a record reaction from civil society, with more than 285 submissions received.

Icasa granted TopTV permission to start the separate porn bouquet on 24 April, and reactions to the landmark approval has been flooding in. TopTV said it was "pleased" with Icasa's decision and won't be commenting further on the matter since the company is under business rescue.

Some South African pay-TV executives and industry insiders have been reluctant to comment on the record since their views might not be reflective of their companies' stance. Their off-the-record comments are split.

"There is a market for it. Some people are hungry for this kind of content," said one.

"It [porn channels] helps to drive [pay-TV] uptake but you risk alienating and losing core subscribers who are your bread and butter," said another.

"It's high time," said a a third pay-TV content veteran.

"It won't stimulate and grow the local TV industry, rands in fact leave South Africa to pay the foreign content providers supplying this premium priced content," said another last week.

The South African Film and Publications Board (FPB) says it advocates the protection of children from exposure to harmful content. The FPB says it is hopeful that the protection of children will not be compromised.

'Intensify nationwide TopTV boycott'

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) says Icasa's decision to approve TopTV's porn channels application "will create a more competitive broadcasting industry with more vibrant players; in turn giving viewers more choice and value for money." 

The Family Policy Institute (FPI), a large Christian network, called Icasa's decision to allow TopTV to broadcast porn "disappointing".

"The only recourse we have is to intensify the nationwide boycott. We are calling on all South Africans to cancel their TopTV subscriptions immediately," says the FPI.

The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, Assemblies of God of South Africa, the Baptist Union of South Africa, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, Church of England in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Full Gospel Church of South Africa, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and the Association of Vineyard Churches in South Africa are taking part in and supporting a boycott of TopTV.

"It does not really matter that this would be offered on an extra bouquet. It is still TopTV, says the FPI. "This is a first for South Africa. The pay-TV operator is being allowed to introduce pornographic channels into the nation. We believe it will be extremely harmful.

Shocking decision

"South Africa is a nation with one of the highest rates of sexual violence against women and children and this decision is bound to increase gender abuse. Tens of thousands of children have been exposed to pornography via the internet and television and now we have growing rates of children sexually abusing other children."

"TopTV has declared this as a 'victory' for democracy. There is no victory when men are reduced to slaves of their lusts and women are portrayed as mindless sex objects."

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) calls the decision "shocking". The MJC says it "fully support the call for a boycott made against TopTV, its advertising agents and sponsors."

"We further condemn TopTV for promoting destructive material in order to save itself from impending financial ruin," and that TopTV subscribers should cancel their TopTV subscriptions.

"The reason for this call is that their subscriptions gave TopTV the financial clout to now screen a pornography bouquet. It is the pornography that will sustain TopTV financially."
 
Read more on:    icasa  |  toptv  |  fxi  |  tv  |  pornography

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