Porn on TV: a sticky debate

2013-03-17 10:00

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TopTV asks Icasa hard questions about regulating morality.

Discussing the minutiae of pornography’s notorious “money shot” is probably not what Icasa councillor Willie Currie signed up for when he was appointed.

But that’s exactly what he was doing this week.

On the panel to hear TopTV’s application to launch three new adult-content channels, Currie was in the heat of the debate, pondering if the “money shot” – the, er, climax of pornographic films – is degrading towards women and whether it will be normalised in society through regular broadcasting.

Icasa refused TopTV’s initial application to launch the channels in 2012 after substantial pressure from Christian religious groups and trade union federation Cosatu.

Icasa cited sexual violence and the abuse of women as key reasons for its decision. At the time, it said: “Icasa views pornography as a systematic practice of sexual discrimination that violates women’s right to equality and human dignity.”

TopTV is planning to launch three new porn channels: Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice.

Playboy TV is already broadcast in 62 countries.

The channels will be a separate subscription from TopTV’s other offerings.

Consumers will have to prove they are older than 18 to subscribe and must have their own bank accounts.

The channels will only be screened in the watershed period of 8pm to 5am to protect children from exposure.

As an additional measure, TopTV has explained that the channels will be protected by a pin, which has to be entered every time a porn channel is accessed.

TopTV argued that its research showed that 50% of TV owners are interested in subscribing to adult content and 71% feel its okay for people to watch porn in the privacy of their homes.

TopTV also argued that there is no piece of legislation that prevents it from launching adult-content channels.

“On Digital Media (TopTv’s Holding Company) could already broadcast the content if it wanted to. It is just asking for a separate channel to do so, so it can contain how it is viewed,” argued TopTV’s lawyer.

But opposition to the channels remains fierce.

“Pornography is wrong. It’s not freedom of expression,” said Palesa Linda Yates from the African Christian Democratic Party, to rapturous applause and a couple of “amens”.

According to Christian presenters, an increase in access to pornography results in increased rapes and divorces.

It also corrupts morals and is breaking apart families, they argued.

There was a great deal of emphasis on the safety of children.

In response, Jacques Rousseau, from the Free Society Institute stated: “Porn only seems to increase two things – arousal and religious outrage.

“South Africans should be insulted by the claim that porn will turn us all into rapists,” said Rousseau, calling on Icasa not to give in to “threats from bullies”.

Marlene Wasserman, a clinical sexologist known in her professional life as Dr Eve, said, in her submission: “We are implying that women are being harmed by porn, when the truth is that many women like watching adult-content TV.

“It’s not porn that’s the problem. It’s gender relationships in the country.”

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