The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has defended itself at the Western Cape High Court for granting a licence to On Digital Media (ODM) to broadcast porn on TopTV, since rebranded to StarSat.

TopTV, which was rebranded to StarSat in October last year, was in April given permission by ICASA to broadcast three adult channels. The launch of the channels was subsequently delayed as the company concluded its business rescue plan, while in December a group of non-profit organisations initiated court proceedings against the granting of the licence.

The porn channels were vocally opposed by a variety of groups, including Muslims, Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA), Christians and a rape survivor, with boycotts threatened.

The case is currently being heard, with the South African Press Association (SAPA) reporting ICASA told the court it did not find any legal reasons why it should not authorise the broadcast of adult pornography on pay channels by StarSat.

ICASA lawyer Paul Kennedy said the licensed channels were in accordance with the X18 rating of the Films and Publications Act and carried warnings at all times.

“These are three mainstream channels which are permitted by the laws overseas and by the broadcasters,” he said.

“ICASA was also entitled to take into account the fact that we have legislation here which deals with inappropriate, unacceptable, unlawful, impermissible forms of pornography.”

Darryl Cooke, lawyer for the Justice Alliance of SA (JASA), one of the applicants, said on Monday ODM had mislead ICASA about the content of the channels during its application for the licence.

Reg Willis, lawyer for co-applicant Doctors for Life, told the court on Tuesday ICASA had granted the licences without understanding the “dangers” behind porn.

“They have allowed a company who is in financial straits to come into the bedrooms, lounges and living rooms of the nation,” he said, adding the public engagement process was “demonstrably ineffective and it does not pass constitutional muster”.

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