Why Icasa backtracked on porn TV decision

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa  (Icasa) has provided details as to why it backtracked on its decision to approve On Digital Media’s application for the authorisation of three pornographic channels on its TopTV platform.

In April, the regulator announced that it had authorised Top TV to broadcast the three adult content channels Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice.

Icasa had previously blocked TopTV’s plans in January saying the following:

“ICASA views pornography as a systematic practice of sexual discrimination that violates women’s right to equality and human dignity. South Africa is experiencing very high levels of violence against women, perpetrated in the main by men. Recent research has shown that South Africa has some of the highest levels of violence against women worldwide.”

“Icasa is not saying that there is a direct causal relationship between the consumption of pornography and violent sexual crimes against women. The empirical evidence for this is not conclusive and it is certainly not so that all men who consume pornography will suddenly transform into rapists.

“However, consumption of pornography may contribute to the incidence of rape by making it more likely that those, who are already inclined to rape may feel validated by seeing women as sexual objects, to actually rape, thereby increasing the overall incidence of rape. Of course, pornography may not be the only contributing factor to violent sexual crime.”

In a document outlining its reasons for the u-turn, Icasa said it is of the considered view that there is no evidence to demonstrate that pornography is a direct cause of gender-based violence.

“After due consideration, the Authority accepts that there is no law of general application prohibiting the production and distribution of adult pornography in the Republic of South Africa.

“The Authority also accepts that there is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that pornography is the direct cause of gender-based violence in the Republic of South Africa. Those opposing the applicant’s channel authorisation application where not able to provide evidence to demonstrate a conclusive link between pornography and gender-based violence.

“The applicant did present evidence to demonstrate that the distribution of pornography is not indicated as a cause of gender-based violence in the Republic of South Africa.”

Icasa said that prior presumptions could not be tested because the applicant chose not to participate at the public hearings on the matter.

Icasa noted that it received a total of five hundred and sixty nine (569) written representations from interested parties on or before the closing date (January 2013), following the publication of a Gazette in December 2012.

The Authority further received seventy five (75) representations after the closing date. Nine (9) organisations confirmed their intention to make oral representations.

A public hearing was held on 14 March 2013. The following organisations made oral submissions: Family Policy Institute; African Christian Democratic Party; Free Society Institute; Doctors For Life; Africa Christian Action; Shofar Christian Church; Free Society Institute; Active for Jesus; and Evergreen Parenting.

Icasa said that the stakeholders who have indicated their opposition to applicant’s application have two forms of recourse:

  • They may approach Parliament to formulate a law of general application to prohibit the distribution of adult pornography; and
  • They can monitor applicant’s broadcast of the pornographic channels to ascertain whether the applicant is in compliance with the Code and make complaints to the BCCSA in this regard.

The launch of TopTV’s porn channels is being delayed by the business rescue process the satellite pay-TV operator is currently undergoing, the Sunday Times reported earlier in July.

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