Prostitutes’ complaint dismissed by TV’s complaints commission

A complaint lodged on behalf of two prostitutes who claimed their dignity and privacy was violated by showing them on a programme aired on SABC1 was dismissed, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) said today.

According to the complaint, the two women, who were described as street-based sex workers, saw themselves under compromising circumstance in a programme called Now or Never broadcast on June 6 this year.

The complaint was lodged by the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC).

The particular episode was about prostitutes who had opted to leave the industry.

In the complaint, the TLAC said it had consulted the women who said they saw themselves in “full view of the public” on the programme.

The two said they did not know they were being filmed and did not give consent to be filmed.

The broadcaster, in its response to the complaint, said it had done a lot of research and planning for the show, which was about the attempts of a woman, Bongiwe Nkwalase, to leave her life as a prostitute.

The programme had used wide-angle camera shots to hide the identity of anyone part of Nkwalase’s “surroundings”.

“Each camera wide-angle shot was recorded from a distance to give a broad perspective of the night life and not a personal attack on any individual.”

“There was no planned recording or deliberate attempt to single out either of the complainants, who are in any event not easily identifiable in the fleeting shot in which they are seen.”

The BCCSA said it had watched a recording of the programme. The two women were not present at the hearing and the commissioners did not know what they looked like.

“After watching the recording, we realised that there was no scene where one could clearly identify women who answered to the description by the complainant,” the BCCSA said in its judgment.

The commissioners watched the recording a second time and were “still in the dark” as to the identity of the women.

“We have to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that the women on whose behalf this complaint was lodged could not be identified.”

The BCCSA said it also accepted the submission by the broadcaster that there was no deliberate attempt to single out the women.

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