South African satellite pay-TV operator Top TV has issued the following statement in response to the South Gauteng High Court’s granting an interdict to halt the broadcast of its planned stand-alone porn bouquet.
Satellite television network TopTV has noted the court decision interdicting it from launching three adult content channels until a final Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) decision at the end of the month.
Marius Liebenberg, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing at TopTV, says the network is yet to see the court decision, study it and assimilate its implications.
The matter, he adds, has stimulated debate afresh on adult content, its accessibility, the sexual lifestyle choices of people and the very strong reactions – both positive and negative – that the imminent launch of the Adult Pack of channels in South Africa has provoked.
TopTV is not surprised that people opposed to the introduction of adult content on TopTV have been most vocal, Liebenberg says. However, those opposed to the proposed new channels would appear to be in the minority as the vast majority of people who have responded publicly and on social media networks either say that they look forward to the introduction of the adult content, or that it is the entrenched democratic right of people to consume content of their choice in the privacy of their own homes – as long as they do not break the law by doing so.
Public opinion concurs with independent research commissioned by TopTV in its investigation of the business viability of the new channels. In that research, 71 percent of urban adult South Africans agreed that people had the right to view material of their choice – including adult content – in the privacy of their homes.
Sexual rights committee member at the World Association of Sexual Health and clinical sexologist, Dr Marlene Wasserman (known as Dr Eve to millions of South Africans) says strong fears about sexuality continue to be fuelled in South Africa. In this context, she says, TopTV’s initiative to create The Adult Pack of channels is a bold move. “Solid and comprehensive sexuality education for both parents and children is absent, she says, and there are scant models for children around healthy relationships and sexuality. Poverty, unemployment, inadequate healthcare and poor education lead to sexual violence. Adult content does not.’
The Adult Pack of channels would be carefully managed, Liebenberg says. The content would only be made available as a completely distinct and stand-alone package and would not be integrated into the mainstream TopTV bouquet of programmes and content. Current TopTV subscribers would only have access to the Adult Pack channels if they subscribed to them and paid a distinct subscription fee for them.
It would, in fact, be difficult to access such content. Adult Pack subscribers would need to:
- make a conscious decision to subscribe to the Adult Pack at a separate cost,
- provide adequate proof that they are older than 18,
- agree to sign up to the additional channels,
- pay a separate monthly subscription fee of R199 for the adult content that will enable subscribers to view only the adult content, and
- contact a separate Call Centre number to do so.
There is a significant volume of scientific research on the impact of freely available adult content in societies and communities. This research concurs that this material is not only harmless, but that it also reduces incidence of sex crimes in communities and in countries where people have free, non-stigmatised access to it.
Often-cited research by Berl Kutchinsky, professor of criminology at the University of Copenhagen, for example, found that incidence of rape diminished or stayed relatively level as pornography became more freely accessible in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the USA. The Scientist magazine has published research showing identical findings were recorded in Japan, Croatia, China, Poland, Finland and the Czech Republic. In the USA, there has been a consistent decline in rape over the last two decades as adult content became more readily accessible, The Scientist magazine says.
TopTV has put mechanisms in place to ensure that only those who have elected to subscribe to the service have access to the Adult Pack content. These mechanisms include secret pin codes to protect minors from accessing the material, and encryption on a distinct pay-TV platform. Each time a channel from the Adult Pack is chosen, the secret pin will need to be entered. This will apply, too, when the television set is turned on and during channel surfing in the normal course of television viewing.
It is the right of all adults to view content of their choice in the privacy of their homes, Liebenberg says. It’s a personal choice that adults are entitled to make. Such material is already freely available in the market on mobile telephones, the Internet and at specialist outlets. TopTV is satisfied it has more than sufficient mechanisms in place to protect those who are either too young to be exposed to adult television content, or those who take exception to such content. However, TopTV does not apologise for giving those who do wish to view adult content on television access (albeit careful and considered access) to such content.