Pay-TV channel Top TV dropped a bomb shell this week, announcing that it was hoping to soon launch three adult channels as a separate service. The news came as an international broadcaster revealed it was planning to introduce a 24-hour porn channel in South Africa – via Top TV’s satellite. The latter is not amused. Fienie Grobler reports.
It was the announcement in the media by African Satellite Installations that it was planning to launch P.Sat in January, that set the rumour mill in motion. The French P.Sat cheekily announced that Top TV subscribers would only have to unplug their Top TV decoders, and plug in the P.Sat decorder, for around-the-clock access to pornography.
This prompted Top TV to issue a statement distancing itself from P.Sat.
“Top TV would like it placed on record that it is not currently nor has it been in the past, in any discussions with P.Sat TV regarding an adult content channel to be carried via the Top TV platform, nor is it in any associated with PSat.TV,” Top TV spokesperson Melinda Connor said in a statement.
Top TV warned that it would be illegal for P.Sat to broadcast without a license from the Independent Broadcasting Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
But that was not the end of it.
Top TV used the opportunity to also announce that its holding company, On Digital Media, had submitted its own application to Icasa for three additional channels – adult content channels.
Connor told TheMediaOnline on Thursday that ODM had already made the application in September this year. “Adult content is obviously a very sensitive issue, even if you have a completely separate stand-alone package.”
She said the adult channels were not ODM’s idea, but that the broadcaster had been approached by Playboy. “Our CEO did say [in the past] we wouldn’t look at an adult channel…however, at some time Playboy approached us. We didn’t purposefully go out looking for this content… [but] we can’t ignore that there is a market.”
Connor said ODM decided to apply for permission for three adult content channels – one being the Playboy channel – so-called “soft porn” – and two “more saucier” channels.
“There will be something for everyone,” said Connor.
However, ODM had decided not to offer the adult channels as part of its normal Top TV bouquet. “It wouldn’t compromise our current subscriber base,” said Connor.
The three-channel package would cost R199 per month and non-Top TV subscribers could also subscribe to it.
It would have a strict 18 age restriction and could only be paid for via credit card or debit order, to ensure that no under-aged person could buy the service.
Also, it would have a parental control option, which included the channels being locked if not viewed for more than 30 minutes.
Viewers would need a pin code to access the content, which would be encrypted. The television guide would be available on a website separate from the Top TV website.
There was no obligation on current Top TV subscribers to subscribe to the new service, said Connor. “But there is a market out there, as much as people won’t say it,” she added.
However, before going ahead with the new service, it first needs to be approved by Icasa.
Members of the public had until Wednesday this week to lodge any objections with Icasa. Connor said on Thursday that Top TV had been informed of “a few complaints” Icasa had received but no decision had been made yet.
The Family Policy Institute told The Witness newspaper it would call for a boycott of Top TV if it went ahead with its plans.
“For them it is about money-making, not about the effect that porn has on families and men who become addicted,” its director, Errol Naidoo, told the KZN paper.
Top TV currently has about 373 000 viewers. Its current service costs between R99 and R269 per month and its content includes movies, crime and gospel.
It was awarded a pay-TV licence in September 2007, and the license was issued in July 2008.
Free-to-air channel e.tv has come under fire many a time for flighting late night “soft porn” movies over weekends. Most recently, in April this year, it made headlines for a show called Naked News, which featured female “news anchors” either reading the news naked, or stripping while reading the news.
Fienie Grobler is deputy news editor at the South African Press Associatio