StarTimes faces growing anger in South Africa

Chinese-owned television company, StarSat, is currently the target of growing discontent in South Africa. The discontent is against On Digital Media (ODM), which is on Star Sat’s pay-television platform.

StarTimesAn application has already been filed in court for the revocation of ODM’s licence for a pornographic bouquet.

ODM, supported by its Chinese financial backer StarTimes, began broadcasting two pornographic TV channels – Private Spice and Playboy TV – in a separate StarSat sex TV package in November 2013. This was shortly after being granted a licence by the South African broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

Subscriber figures for the four year old South African pay-TV operator, currently in business rescue, have dipped to between 100 000 and 120 000 from 150 000 a few years ago.

Leading the opposition to the porn broadcast is the group, Doctors for Life, which represents 1, 400 doctors.

The non-governmental body, which submitted a court application at the High Court in Pretoria, has now seen its application being joined to the applications of the Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) and the Cause for Justice organisations that submitted their applications in the Western Cape High Court.

JASA and Cause for Justice contend that South Africa’s broadcasting regulator,  which initially rejected ODM’s porn channels application before approving it a year later, acted illegally by failing to consider that the constitutional rights of children outweigh the rights of StarSat’s freedom of expression.

In its application, Doctors for Life, contends among other things, that pornographic images are addictive and have the potential to be harmful to the human brain in ways similar to those of substances like heroin, cocaine and LSD.

Doctors for Life based its position on a recent study by German doctors, which suggest that watching pornography may result in reduction in the activity of certain areas of the brain.

JASA, through its application, is requesting the court to review the broadcasting regulator’s decision in granting a licence for porn television channels to StarSat, formerly TopTV, and for ICASA to ensure a correct application of the law and broadcasting regulations.

The current wave of anger is a continuation of what began last year, when ODM (operating as TopTV) was licensed to broadcast three adult content channels–Playboy TV, Desire TV, and Private Spice in South Africa. Late last year, ODM’s shareholders voted to accept the business rescue plan offered by StarTimes, following a slump in fortunes.

The rescue plan was, however, hit by a gust of public disapproval, chiefly from South African religious organisations.

South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) described ICASA’s decision to grant licence for pornographic broadcast as “inconsistent”.

Nabeweya Mallick, spokesperson for the MJC, said the council was “disappointed” at ICASA’s insensitivity to the rights of religious and race groups and cultures.

“We feel they have really failed the standards set by ICASA. If one is sensitive to the rights of these groups… what about the rights of women?” asked Mallick.