SOUTH AFRICA—It did not take long for TopTV to express its opposition to the planned rollout of a 24/7 porn channel on the same Astra 4A satellite from which it broadcasts its more family friendly fare to South African subscribers. African Satellite Installations (ASI) announced this week plans to launch Porn Satellite Television (PSat) in January. Subscribers to the porn channel would be provided with a special decoder they would need to use to access the porn, but first they will have to unplug the TopTV decoder.
"PSat encourages buyers of the channel to disconnect their TopTV decoders, but is not telling users that it's illegal. These actions violate TopTV's rights,” the company said. The illegal reference refers to the fact that PSat has not received permission to broadcast porn from South Africa’s communications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). TopTV said it is considering a lawsuit based on the alleged illegality of the planned January launch.
An ASI spokesperson, John Solomon, countered that TopTv does not have grounds for a lawsuit because PSat, which is an already existing French channel that wants to expand into South Africa, does not need to get permission from ICASA.
"The French channel has been known in African countries for three years already and I don't need to obtain a license for that. I am also only the distributor of the decoder and not the broadcaster or the owner of the channel,” said Solomon. "Various channels, like TopTV and PSat, rent space on the Astra 4A satellite. Decoders that are purchased locally can only receive certain channels. All I do is sell a decoder that can receive those pornography channels."
Marius Liebenberg, a senior vice-president at TopTV disagreed, saying, “The service proposed by PSat.TV would amount to a subscription broadcasting service and to conduct such without a license would be in contravention of section 7 of the Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005, as amended.
“PSat.TV,” he added, “is misusing and misrepresenting the TopTV brand in the market place.”
An ICASA spokesperson concurred that Solomon needs to get additional approval before its decoders can be distributed to the public.
"It is not clear where these decoders are coming from. ICASA must approve the import of the equipment first before it can be distributed,” said Paseka Maleka. "In addition, ICASA has not received an application for a license for the distribution of pornography from PSat. Because viewers must subscribe to the channel, it is subject to ICASA's approval."
But TopTV may have another reason for objecting to TopTV. According to iol.ca.za, the network has itself applied to ICASA for permission to launch three Playboy channels to its lineup, for which subscribers would be charged an extra fee and also have to undergo age verification before being allowed to access the content.
The TopTv application has already been publicly opposed by the country’s media classification board, the Film and Production Board, whose spokesperson, Mlimandlela Ndamase, said, “We definitely will oppose the application in a manner similar to the way we did with MultiChoice when they wanted to launch a 24-hour pornography channel.”
TopTv responded with a prepared statement that read, in part, “While TopTV is not seeking to distance itself from its positioning as a family-oriented service provider, we view the additional channels within that context as well. We need to be alive to the desires of our client base… stagnating (sic) to past statements will not serve changed needs from our clients or assist growth.”
Needless to say, if the Film and Production Board so virulently opposes the launch of Playboy channels, which tend to contain tamer fare than other more hardcore distributors of adult content, the same, or worse, is probably in store for PSat.