kykNET (DStv 144) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform has been fined R20 000 by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) for broadcasting a film with an age restriction of 16 in the morning without reflecting the age restriction it in the MultiChoice electronic programme guide (EPG) and with MultiChoice failing to block the movie with the parental blocking mechanism.
According to the Broadcasting Code for Subscription Broadcasters in South Africa which MultiChoice and kykNET adhere to, pay-TV operators must provide a secure mechanism to block a programme based on the classification of the programme or channel on its service, and capture the classification information electronically.
MultiChoice and kykNET told the BCCSA that it failed to comply with the code due to human error, and that although the age restriction of 16 for the movie Damduikers appeared on the TV screen, the movie was classified as "family".
Damduikers shown on the Afrikaans language channel supplied to MultiChoice's DStv service by M-Net, contains crude and offensive language and was broadcast at 06:05 on a Saturday morning on 7 December 2013.
According to MultiChoice and kykNET "the person responsible for activating the electronic parental guide in respect of the broadcast was absent on that day and the guide was, accordingly, not electronically activated. Thus, even if a parent had programmed a DStv decoder with an age restriction of 16 or 18, there would not have been any reaction".
This was the first time MultiChoice convened the code due to their being no experienced person on duty supposed to ensure that the EPG on DStv was appropriately programmed.
"It is important for parents that their children can be protected against age-restricted material in the parent's absence," says the BCCSA in its judgement.
"06:05 is precisely the time of day when children would be likely to watch material without their parents necessarily being aware that the children had switched on the television. The activation of the electronic parental mechanism is therefore the exact precaution that parents are likely to take," said the BCCSA.
"The problem is that the complainant was depending on the electronic parental mechanism to operate automatically."
"The indication of the age restriction was , accordingly, something which would only have been relevant if the parents had been present. However, the automatic block-out mechanism was not operational at the very time when parents would be concerned as to the accessibility of programmes with an age restriction. The protection of children remains or cardinal importance," says the BCCSA in the judgement.
The fine of R20 000 has to be paid before 6 June.