THE Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) has dismissed public complaints about a risqué Cape Town-based reality documentary series, citing the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression, writes Karen Breytenbach in the Cape Times.

MAN, aired at the "watershed" time slot of 9.30pm Fridays on SABC 3, depicts the lives and sexual adventures of four men in their 30s who live and work in Cape Town.

Four complaints were received from viewers in five weeks about how three straight participants talked about women and sex.

In February, the BCCSA adjudicated complaints from three women who found the men's conversations offensive and degrading to women. They were concerned that it aired at an hour that many children were watching television.

A viewer remarked: "Why on earth do we spend millions on Aids, women and child abuse, rape cases, social services, policing, and relationship counselling if the SABC sees fit to broadcast such trash to feed the minds of vulnerable people?"

BCCSA commissioner Linda Venter dismissed the complaints because the content of the series, in the context of its genre, could not be found to exceed the limits of the broadcaster's freedom of expression under the constitution and Broadcasting Code.

It was "unscripted and expressed the men's perceptions of themselves, their potential partners and subsequent interactions", and was aimed at broadening perceptions about men in their 30s.

While parents had to protect their children during the watershed time slot, advisories were aired before each episode. The series also contained no explicit sex, nudity or material that would require an age restriction higher than 16.

Venter said she understood and respected the sentiments of sensitive viewers, but it had to be "taken into account that there is a range of conflicting and competing views and tastes in the public market".

"The legal test in determining whether material is permissible is not what is offensive to specific individuals or whether members of a community themselves might be offended by being exposed to it, but what the community would not allow other members of the community to be exposed to, because it would be beyond the contemporary South African standard of tolerance to allow them to be exposed to it.

"The test that should be applied should be an objective standard of a reasonable viewer who is broadminded and not overly sensitive."

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