Israel Court Greenlights Soft Porn

Rhett Pardon
JERUSALEM – Ending years of legal battles from when satellite and cable TV operators began broadcasting Playboy and three other channels with adult content, Israel’s highest court has ruled that television stations can broadcast softcore pornography.

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruling ended a three-year legal debate, which started when the Knesset introduced an amendment into its communications legislation banning the Playboy Channel broadcasts.

The ruling, in a 28-page decision, sets a new standard for freedom of expression regarding pornographic broadcasts. The court decided the Cable and Satellite Council’s decision was lawful and “maintains the required balances.”

The required balance is achieved by banning only “hard” pornography and by enforcing the restrictions imposed by the Cable and Satellite Council on the channel’s broadcasting hours and marketing, the court said.

The court wrote: “The protection from an affront to public sensibilities is obtained by a proportionate infringement of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of occupation.”

The court also said that the channel’s broadcasts do not violate Israel’s communications ban on “presenting a person or any part of a person as available for sexual use.”

Justice Dalia Dorner, who wrote the decision for the court, noted that 170 countries already allow such softcore pornography on their airwaves and that the petitioners failed to distinguish between pornography, hard and soft, and erotica.

Plaintiffs maintained that the council had misinterpreted the intention of the law and of those who initiated the law, which was to forbid the Playboy Channel’s broadcasts.

Israel’s parliament in 2001 outlawed pay television channels showing pornography because of objections by ultra-Orthodox parties, which at the time held substantial clout in the government.

PlayTV, Playboy Channel’s Israel franchise, succeeded in getting the ban lifted but last year women’s groups protested and asked the court to reinstate the ban on pornography broadcasts.

The decision in favor of the Playboy Channel rejected a petition against a television channel that has angered women’s groups and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

An 11-judge panel rejected the petitions filed by women’s organizations and Knesset members against the Cable and Satellite Council, which allowed the Playboy Channel broadcasts. The Knesset is Israel’s version of the House of Representatives.

Mickey Canon, who lived most of his life in Israel and immigrated to the United States 13 years ago, said that it is about time softcore porn is available to Israelis.

“You have to give them the freedom of speech they deserve. It’s the 21st Century,” he said. “And you have to take in consideration that this modern court took the stance that the community is going to see it whether Israel likes it or not. Black market cable TV or pirate TV is very big in that part of the world.”

“These kinds of broadcasts present women as sexual objects,” Smadar Ben-Natan, the lawyer representing the women’s groups, told Reuters. “Unfortunately, the court went by the standards of society.”