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No more nookie on SA pay-TV service

2015-03-26 11:46

Cape Town – The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has ordered the South African satellite pay-TV service StarSat – operated by On Digital Media (ODM) and China's StarTimes Media SA – to stop broadcasting pornography on South African television.

The court has dismissed, with cost, StarSat's appeal of the earlier judgment of the Western Cape High Court at the end of 2014 – a judgment which also ordered StarSat to stop broadcasting porn.

At the beginning of 2014 Judge Lee Bozalek in the Western Cape High Court ordered StarSat to stop broadcasting its hardcore pornography TV channels in South Africa.

That court case decision came after the the non-profit organisations Justice Alliance of South Africa (Jasa), Cause for Justice and Doctors for Life took South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), and StarSat to court for allowing and broadcasting pornography on television in South Africa.

Icasa admitted to the court during that case that the regulator had failed to appoint experts to consider StarSat's porn plan.

The struggling On Digital Media, still in business rescue, also failed to register with the Film and Publications Board (FPB) as a porn purveyor.

The Woodmead-based satellite pay-TV operator then appealed the High Court ruling.

In December 2014 the Western Cape High Court rejected ODM's appeal, again finding that the broadcasting regulator must relook the process and decision which gave StarSat (formerly TopTV) permission to broadcast the hardcore pornography in the form of Brazzers, Desire TV and Playboy TV channels.

ODM then decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal at the beginning of this year and again resumed broadcasting its sex channels.

'An appeal has no reasonable prospects of success'

Now, in the latest chapter of the porn broadcast case, the Supreme Court of Appeal has ordered that StarSat's application for appeal "is dismissed with cost on the grounds that an appeal has no reasonable prospects of success".

It means that due to StarSat's failed attempt to appeal, the satellite pay-TV operator must immediately stop broadcasting its controversial porn package of channels.

StarSat which already spent a large sum of money on the court case case, can still approach the Constitutional Court in order to apply for leave to appeal.

In such a case the original order of the Western Cape High Court will be suspended, pending the leave to appeal proceedings at the Constitutional Court.

There's been no statement yet from StarSat, which, despite its focus on fighting for televised pornography, has failed in the past year and a half to significantly expand and improve the quality and number of the general entertainment and movie channels of its bouquet – the real driver of pay-TV uptake.

Niche offering

According to the 2014 court documents, ODM last year had around 400 subscribers for the sex channels which subscribers need to subscribe to as a separate porn package.

While StarSat's hardcore sex channels remain a niche offering – something which ODM at launch in May 2010 promised subscribers and South Africa's TV industry it would never broadcast only to do a U-turn – StarSat at the end of 2014 said that the company sees its porn channels as a "freedom to view" issue.

ODM said that the pay-TV operator "will continue to ensure that citizens in South Africa have the freedom to view the programmes they wish to".

While StarSat has been fighting its porn battle in court, ordinary StarSat subscribers in 2015 continue to blast the operator.

StarSat subscribers constantly complain about bad service, a bad customer call centre and long call waiting times, the bad video and audio quality of some channels and channels freezing up, payment problems, erratic electronic programme guide (EPG) errors, removed TV channels and old programming.

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