Electronic media players yesterday joined their print colleagues in
criticising provisions in the Films and Publications Amendment Bill as
unconstitutional and “of such severity that they would make
broadcasting almost impossible”, writes Wyndham Hartley in Business Day.

The bill is designed to crack down on child pornography and abuse but the removal of the exemptions would compel self-censorship or lengthy applications for classification of reports concerning sexual abuse, among other things.

Yesterday the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which counts among its members all three television broadcasters in SA as well as all licensed commercial radio stations, pointed out that the removal of the exemptions introduced self-censorship. They said it also “places an impossible duty” on broadcasting in the categories mentioned. Its submission said this was incompatible with the constitution.

The NAB said broadcasting of child pornography was already illegal and amounted to irresponsible broadcasting. It said all the members of the organisation condemned child porno-graphy and had also worked closely with statutory bodies, including the Film and Publications Board, to self-regulate the broadcast of adult content.

The NAB also raised the issue that broadcasting in SA was regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) as provided for in the constitution.

It said the self-regulation bodies such as the Broadcasting Complaints Commission operated in terms of Icasa’s sole jurisdiction to regulate broadcasting, and with its sanction.

“This renders any intervention in terms of the Films and Publications Act constitutionally invalid as no body other than Icasa or those duly authorised by Icasa has a constitutional mandate to regulate broadcasting content,” the body said.

This view was supported by Icasa in its submission to the committee — “Any intervention in broadcasting by the Films and Publications Board in terms of the Films and Publications Act would, with respect, be constitutionally incompatible.

“Only one state organ is authorised by the constitution to regulate broadcasts and that is the Independent Communications Authority”.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.