Deputy claims TV chat lines are cover for prostitution


LATE-NIGHT television adverts for premium rate phone chat lines are a cover for prostitution, a Government backbencher has claimed.

Fine Gael Dublin Mid West TD Derek Keating called on Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte to consider banning the numbers advertised on TV3, and to introduce legislation governing advertising standards.

Mr Keating, who raised the issue in the Dáil, said the “inspiration behind the question is that often, as I sit at home late at night awaiting what is for me and many others a very challenging political programme, I see young scantily dressed girls on TV3 encouraging and inviting people to participate with them by way of a call centre”.

“I wish to make no bones about it today: given the information I have, I believe this is a cover for prostitution.”

Mr Rabbitte said responsibility for the regulation of premium-rate telephone numbers and for advertising was a matter for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and he had “no direct role in the matter”.

The chat-line services Mr Keating referred to “are not defined as sexual entertainment services but rather as virtual chat services”, but the code of practice requires service providers to “ensure services are not used in any way to promote or facilitate prostitution”.

Mr Keating said: “I do not accept for a moment that what I see on TV3 every night is not sexual entertainment services.”

From the information available, “prostitution is rife in this country today and it is readily available in every city, town and village”. It was “inextricably linked with sex trafficking”.The issue could not be discussed without considering the knock-on effects on crime.

He said gardaí in Clondalkin were seeking help following a recent attack on a young girl in his constituency, and he believed the phone line advertisements were sexual entertainment services.

He accepted ComReg was the relevant authority but “we are the legislative authority”, and the Oireachtas could help ComReg by empowering it with additional legislation to deal with “this serious matter I feel most uncomfortable about”.

Mr Rabbitte said it was “not yet established that the BAI code in this regard is ineffective”. He found it “difficult to think of anything positive one could say about the advertisements in question. They are demeaning of women and . . . there is an issue affecting this country, as well as every other country, of trafficking of young women into this jurisdiction.”

Mr Rabbitte said that when the Bill on human trafficking was implemented, the belief was that “it was something that affected other member states but not this country to the same extent”. However, evidence now suggested “it is a matter of concern in this jurisdiction as well”.

The Minister said he would bring ComReg’s attention to the matter and to Mr Keating’s belief.

“I will not press him as to the source of his information . . . If the chat lines are a cover for prostitution then it would be appropriate to refer the ads to the Broadcasting Authority”.