Cash-strapped TopTV opens pornography case

TopTV chief executive Eddie Mbalo. (Gallo)

TopTV chief executive Eddie Mbalo. (Gallo)

The financially distressed TopTV wants to broadcast three pornographic channels, namely Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Space. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in 2012 blocked a previous attempt by TopTV to launch the channels, arguing, among other things, that the rights of women to equality and human dignity trumped the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. But TopTV came out fighting at public hearings at Icasa on Thursday.

“In a democracy, adult citizens are free to make the choices that suit them within the rule of law,” said chief executive Eddie Mbalo. “It is not the role of the state, the church, or any other body to dictate to people how they behave, as long as no one is harmed in the process.”

Mbalo pointed to statistics purporting to show that a majority (71%) of respondents polled in a survey – 501 respondents were TopTV subscribers – indicated that they agreed that adults had the “right to watch pornography” in the privacy of their homes. A further 51% indicated they were likely to subscribe to an adult channel.

“The content does not contravene law on hate speech or incitement to violence. There is no law prohibiting the proposed adult content. In fact, we will show that refusal of channel authorisation would be unlawful and unconstitutional,” Mbalo said.

In addition, TopTV argued that it had systems in place – including mandatory pin codes – so that children would not be able to access the material.

He also added that TopTV had decided to narrow its application to the effect that it would only broadcast the channels during the “watershed period” between 8pm and 5am. In addition, the channels would not be available to prepaid customers but rather only to contract viewers. There were also checks and balances to ensure subscribers were over 18 years of age.

‘Kick-start ODM’s recovery’
Although TopTV is in financial difficulty, it argued at the Icasa hearings that it did not regard adult content as a “panacea” to solve its financial problems. “But it is a lucrative segment that could kick-start ODM’s recovery.”

In 2012, the company’s management team decided to seek a “business rescue” under section 129 of the New Companies Act. This, it said at the time, would provide a “protective bubble” around it and “buy it some time to complete the search for a strategic equity partner”.

Several lobby groups, including Christian groupings, were scheduled to make presentations arguing against TopTV’s application during Thursday’s hearings. – Tech Central NewsCentral Media



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