oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Broadcast indecency: should Big Brother be watching?



Radio and television not only provide a platform for communication, but are instrumental in shaping ideas and opinions. Recognising this, governments have always attempted to regulate broadcasting. One of the most regulated fields of broadcasting is broadcast indecency. In South Africa broadcasting is regulated by the Broadcasting Monitoring and Complaints Committee (BMCC) and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA). The Codes of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the BCCSA contain no reference to 'indecency'. Specific depictions of sexual conduct as descriptionbed in the Code and explicit sexual conduct which degrades a person in the sense that it advocates a particular form of hatred based on gender, and constitutes incitement to cause harm are prohibited. In England the BBC regulates public broadcasting while the independent television stations are supervised by the Independent Television Commission. Although the Broadcasting Standards Commission(BSC) decides on matters of taste and decency, the guidelines issued by the BSC for broadcasters contain no references to 'indecency'. In the United States the Federal Communications Committee(FCC) determines broadcast policy. The FCC continues to use the term 'indecency and has as a result of many judgements, arrived at a workable definition of indecency and a satisfactorily approach to the issue of indecency for the FCC.


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