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31st December   Expressing Prejudice

I was just checking on the Monopolies & Merger Commissions website and their is no mention of an investigation into the ownership of the Express. I believe that the window of opportunity has now passed and that Richard Desmond is the uncontested owner of the Express and the Daily Star.

The last few weeks has seen a pretty unpleasant campaign mounted by an awful lot of competitors. Most of them simply arguing that being involved with porn makes Desmond somehow unfit to own a paper. (As if other newspaper proprietors are always beyond reproach!)

Anyway here are a couple of examples, firstly from some Daily Mail propaganda:

The Daily and Sunday Express have just been acquired by a pornographer. Do you really want an X-rated paper in your home?

Dear Reader

Forgive me for writing to you but you may be unaware of the fact that your newspaper, the Daily Express has just been bought by one of Britain's most prolific peddlers of pornography.

Richard Desmond, who has acquired both the Daily Express and Sunday Express, makes a fortune from such top shelf magazines as Nude Reader's Wives, Big Ones, Asian Babes and Over Forty as well as an X-rated cable TV channel called Fantasy

You could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive about the kind of values Mr Desmond will bring to your newspapers which, until now, has always stood for everything that is decent in British life

Don't despair. There is one paper which is true to all the values that you hold dear. That is why I am inviting you to try the Daily Mail and The Mail On Sunday at a very special price for the next 11 weeks. Indeed for the next nine days you can sample both papers for just a penny a day. But then the Mail, which champions all that is best about this country is simply, Britain's best value-for-money newspaper

So why not try us this weekend and in the coming weeks with the special money-off vouchers in this envelope? You could save yourself pounds. I don't think you will be disappointed

Yours sincerely

Lawrence Sear (Managing Editor)

Even the Guardian rates at the same gutter level on this issue.

Fresh evidence of the involvement of Richard Desmond, the new owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star, in the selling of hard pornography emerged last night after an investigation of his web of interlinked companies.

Inquiries by the Guardian have revealed that a company wholly owned by Mr Desmond has registered a website which promises live heterosexual sex, live lesbian sex as well as other images portraying women as old as 78, pregnant, and one who calls herself Anal Annie.

A spokesman for Mr Desmond, who was out of the country last night, admitted that the "fantasy" website was part of the businessman's empire which includes a whole stable of top shelf publications, OK! magazine, and now the Daily and Sunday Express and Daily Star, purchased last month for £125m.

The sale of the newspapers, with a combined circulation of 1.6m, has yet to be referred to the trade secretary, Stephen Byers. The Office of Fair Trading has invited comments on the acquisition and has set a deadline of next Wednesday. A report will then be passed to Mr Byers who, if he chooses, can refer the deal to the Competition Commission on public interest grounds.

A precedent was set a decade ago when David Sullivan, publisher of the lurid Daily Sport newspaper, was prevented from taking over the Bristol Evening Post by the then monopolies & mergers commission, now the competition commission.

Although there was no reason to block the takeover on competition grounds, the MMC decided that Mr Sullivan's ownership of the newspaper group "could harm the standing of the papers in their community".

If Mr Sullivan had bought the newspapers he "could be expected to influence editorial policy and the character and content of these papers and this would harm both the accurate presentation of news and the free expression of opinion", it added.

The OFT inquiry is purely on competition grounds, but may also reflect any other public interest comments made by third parties.

Mr Sullivan was referred automatically to the MMC because the combined circulation of his papers and the Bristol Evening Post group breached the rules on newspaper mergers.

The acquisition of Express Newspapers by Mr Desmond has already attracted controversy. An early day motion by Brian Sedgemore and signed by 10 Labour MPs expressed "grave concerns that national newspapers within the Express Group should have fallen under the ownership of a publisher of pornography".

Mr Desmond has set up an advisory board between himself and the newspaper editors to soften criticism that he interferes in the content of the titles, but many staff consider the system to be worthless.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat media spokesman said: "The facts that have been uncovered will cause concern for many longstanding Express readers. If he wants to run sex shows on the sidelines he is happy to do so, but in the public interest, none of that must cross to the newspapers."

Mr Desmond had a 30-minute meeting in Downing Street last week with Tony Blair, who is unlikely to have known the full extent of his involvement in pornography.

On his internet site Mr Desmond charges £9.99 a month to watch "live" sex on web cams, and promotes his magazines

24th December   Can't Review British Porn

From www.ananova.com

A Channel 5 show featuring reviews of porn movies has been blasted by a broadcasting watchdog for further pushing the boundaries of sex on TV. The Broadcasting Standards Commission upheld complaints about the station's X Rated series saying it was simply promoting products that cannot be advertised on television.

One edition of the programme included a clip from an R18 classified video, a type which can only be bought from a licensed sex shop.

The commission's report said: "The (BSC's standards) committee believed that this represented a further erosion of the dividing line between what was acceptable for open access services and the more sexually explicit material available from encrypted services. The committee concluded that the series was effectively promoting products that cannot be advertised on television and went beyond acceptable boundaries for a free to air terrestrial service.

Six viewers complained about the use of pornographic material in the shows, with one objecting to scenes from lesbian videos while another was upset at gay scenes.

The station said great care had been taken in editing to ensure the R18 clip was no more explicit than other videos featured.

In its report the BSC said the series was consistent with a continuing process by Channel 5 of seeking to extend the boundaries of acceptability with regard to the depiction of sex on free to air television: this time by reviewing pornographic videos in the context of an entertainment programme.

A Channel 5 spokesman said the station was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision, adding: More than 1.3 million viewers watched the series but the BSC have based their decision on just six complaints - representing a minute percentage of those who watched. It seems unfair in the extreme to single out Channel 5 for showing this type of material when similar programming can be frequently found on ITV and Channel 4.

24th December   Can't Order British Porn

One of the most inane rules in the UK's censorship arsenal is that you can't buy R18 videos by mail order. The realisation of this has just hit www.r18vid.com. I wonder if somebody is going around checking. Anyway the website carries the following statement:

On receipt of legal advice the Directors of the company are sorry to report that the mail order of R18 videos has been suspended forthwith.

It will no longer be possible to purchase R18 videos from this site.

It appears that whilst it is legal to sell uncertificated hardcore videos to UK residents by mail order from the Continent it is illegal to sell certificated hardcore videos by mail order within the UK itself. We are of the opinion that this can only lead to a further increase in the sale & scope of the black market in the UK. If you feel strongly about this issue please write to your local MP.

We hope to be able to point our customers to alternative sources of supply in the near future so check back regularly for an update.

Many Apologies

The Directors, Prime Time Promotions (Shifnal) Limited

19th December   Opium Wars

sd.jpg (8045 bytes)The ASA have banned posters featuring a nude Sophie Dahl on the back of a very large postbag of complaints. The ASA must always get a very onesided view of censorship, afteall, one is hardly going to write and complain in defense of a particular advert. When video/film/TV censors ban things there is at least an opposition even if it just people voting with their wallets.

Anyway I thouught coverage from the Scotsman was well over the top and deserves wider derision, so here it is:

 

What makes a controversial advertisement? What makes it offensive, or pornographic, or unsuitable for public display? These are questions facing marketing teams at Yves Saint Laurent as their billboard posters for Opium perfume continue to raise hackles in middle Britain.

By now, most people will have either seen the ad in situ, or in newspapers debating the issue of whether Sophie Dahl's naked pose is erotic or perverted. In the picture, Dahl is completely naked apart from a choker of pearls and some gold high-heels. Her pose is an awkward one - she sits on her knees, leaning back, legs open at a ridiculous angle. Her eyes are closed, her head thrown back. She is clearly in the throes of sexual ecstasy or is getting extremely excited about the thought of a big bottle of perfumed water for Christmas.

There is more than one version of the picture. Street billboards are more explicit than those in department stores. Sometimes Dahl cups her breast, sometimes her legs open still wider. The common feature is that the Advertising Standards Authority has received many complaints. At the last count, the tally was more than 200 and, like the model's passion, it continues to rise.

So what exactly are people complaining about? Is there anything wrong with these images, or is it an example of interfering individuals and dungaree-wearing feminists getting all worked up over nothing?

At first glance, there may be little that is different in the Opium ad, given that women's nude bodies are used to sell everything from cars to computers. At least this time, it could be argued, Dahl looks as if she is in control. There is no-one else around; she is a woman who is pretending to enjoy her own body.

It is unlikely that Yves Saint Laurent expected to generate a discussion about the politics of self-pleasure when they initiated this campaign, but that is one of the sub-texts which has appeared. On closer inspection, however, this argument does not bear much weight. How many women - or men, for that matter - would pile on the slap and select their best jewels and stilettos when they opt for a quick onanistic fumble?

Dahl is actually pictured in a classical pornographic pose - if we were given a front view of her body, rather than the side-angle, the complaints generated thus far would pale into insignificance.

In Bradford, local Asian women have already commented on this aspect by daubing the poster with red paint, proclaiming: "We are not for sale, this is a rape fantasy." French women have also campaigned against the ads by referring to them as "porn chic".

The vision of desire and sex given here is not about individuality and control. Dahl's pose, as captured by photographer Stephen Meisel, is a cliché. She is a woman who can be found for a couple of pounds on any top shelf in almost any newsagent.

Those who believe that it is challenging our conceptions of what women want from sex are sadly deluded. They may be the same women who believe that paying pornographic models, or having women as editors of pornographic magazines, brings equality and freshness to the situation. It does not - it just allows us to pretend a little more, to justify the wholesale misrepresentation of women's bodies and women's experiences as free choice.

Another argument which has been used is the erotica defence. The divide between erotica and pornography is a much-debated one, but in this case it is redundant. Even if a person does not find the Opium image problematical , they can argue that as erotica it has no place on an advertising hoarding. If you want to buy pornography or erotica, there are outlets for that. Consumers can make that choice and they can, to some extent, opt into a market whereby their needs will be met. Public advertising does not rely on any contract between viewer and producer. It is there, it is in your face, and the only recourse you have is to the ASA.

At the time of writing this, there had been a great deal of comment on the fact that Dahl's pose had generated more complaints than any other ad this year. This is not true. The picture which really got people up in arms was for Books Online. In this image, a naked man and woman sat cross-legged. Over each other's shoulder, they were engrossed in their individual books. The message? Sex and nudity is all very well, but you can't beat a good read.

Amazingly, almost 300 people claimed that this picture was pornographic. Although the claims were not upheld, it was deemed that the ad could not be displayed near churches or schools.

The message in the Opium ad is much clearer. Sex still sells and women's bodies are still there to be manipulated and exploited. Specific fantasies of those bodies as upheld by the multinational, high-profit pornographic industry are being used to support another multinational, high-profit industry. It is no coincidence that the model used is thin, white, able-bodied and young. Would you know it was Sophie Dahl unless someone told you? The reason for this is that she has no individuality at all - her spread-eagled, created pose says more about the sad dupes we are believed to be by the advertising industry than it does about real experiences of sensuality and desire.

Perhaps Yves Saint Laurent's marketers were trying to make an ironic point about the opiate of the people - pornography is the new religion.

14th December   Shameful News from World Online
The ISP World Online have recently removed *all* of their binaries newsgroups on their Usenet feed. A spokesperson for World Online gave a classic  & shameful "I don't believe in censorship, but...":

The decision to remove binaries from the news server was a decision based on the very large number of families using our service, where parents do not want children (or even themselves) to see relentless porn images.

We are not just talking about child pornography, but the whole range of material that is available. We do have an obligation to restrict 'top shelf' material if parents, and our users, have asked us to do so.

The news groups are so full of porn it is hard to use them for what they really were for. If users want to see porn then they can do so simply by visiting the huge number of web sites available. And those that give their credit cards over, simply help to further the trade, but have not put any censorship on sites. But at least you know what you are doing when you go to these sites.

I hate censorship of any kind, but sometimes you need to help protect those that need it (ie: children) until they can truly decide for themselves.

12th December   Repressive & Regressive & Out Of Date

From  the Sunday People

A Porn TV channel beaming hardcore films into British homes could soon be banned. Adult X - also known as Adult Plus - gets around UK laws because it is based in France.

But media minister Janet Anderson has vowed to outlaw the channel by making the necessary smart cards and decoders illegal. She said: Banning Adult X is a matter we are currently working on.

The watchdog Independent Television Commission is also concerned. A spokesman said: This channel repeatedly contains material which offends against taste and decency. If it was based in Britain we would revoke its licence immediately.

(A nasty bit of politicking particularly as AdultX are no longer broadcasting anyway. Hardcore is no longer considered to be obscene in the UK anyway so what justification could the Government provide to the European Commission. The ITC are a bunch of human rights abusers who all deserve the sack which will soon becoming their way).

12th December   Ministry Of Defence Defence Defended
From the Guardian

Government attempts to ban books by former security and intelligence officers were dealt a blow yesterday when a New Zealand court dismissed Ministry of Defence efforts to suppress an account of an ill-fated Gulf war mission by an ex-SAS soldier. The judge dismissed MoD claims that the book, Soldier 5, being published in New Zealand by a New Zealander who uses the pseudonym Mike Coburn, could jeopardise the security of future SAS operations.

His ruling, like the Spycatcher affair, has widespread implications for the writers of other books on the security and intelligence agencies, not least Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5. TheMoD, with MI6, has led the attack on Dame Stella for her decision to write her memoirs, citing the precedent it would give former SAS soldiers. She has agreed to redraft some passages but insists she has the right under the Human Rights Act to publish a personal memoir.

The Ministry of Defence has used its power to issue orders for the improper purpose of restricting the defendant's right to freedom of speech and expression, said Mr Justice Salmon in Auckland. He ruled that Mr Coburn was subjected to "illegitimate" economic pressure to sign a confidentiality agreement, after the MoD threatened to force him out of the SAS, and relinquish its special pay scales, if he refused to sign the lifetime ban.

During the hearing, much of it held behind closed doors, MoD witnesses, including the head of the SAS, warned that the publication of Soldier 5 could jeopardise the integrity of its confidentiality clause. The botched Bravo Two Zero mission has already inspired two bestselling accounts, by patrol leader Andy McNab and another member, Chris Ryan, the only one of the eight man team to have escaped. Both soldiers had left the force by the time the MoD introduced a confidentiality agreement for special forces soldiers in 1996, designed to prevent the publication of further accounts of undercover missions without the permission of senior officers. A spate of earlier books by former SAS soldiers were written after the authors voluntarily submitted manuscripts to the MoD for vetting.

During open sessions in court, Mr Coburn, 36, accused senior officers of issuing the Bravo Two Zero patrol with faulty equipment, dropping it too close to enemy lines, and delaying a rescue attempt because the men were "expendable". He said he wanted to restore the reputation of Vince Phillips, a member of the SAS patrol whose suitability for the task has been criticised by one of the patrol team as well as in a leaked SAS report.

The New Zealand ruling also has significant implications for the MoD's attempts to suppress books about undercover operations in Northern Ireland.

The MoD said yesterday it was "disappointed" with the ruling. Though it has 28 days to appeal, officials suggested it would not do so. They acknowledged the significance of the ruling for former security personnel wanting to publish their memoirs in Britain.

5th December   JackBoots and a Lifetime of Menace

From www.TheRegister.co.uk

The great and the good when it comes to privacy invasion were honoured last night at the London School of Economics in the third annual Big Brother Awards.

The awards are set up to highlight and publicise organisations that are invading the UK population's privacy, offering unconventional categories like Most Invasive Company, Most Heinous Government Organisation, Worst Public Servant and so on and so forth. They were compered by organiser Simon Davies (best known for an excellent TV programme on privacy invasion earlier this year) and MI5 spook-turned-whistleblower David Shayler, both dressed as Men in Black.

So, what occurred? Well Home Secretary Jack Straw featured heavily, but didn't make the shortlist for worst public servant by dint of the fact that he'd won it the previous two years. He was honoured with the Lifetime Menace award in recompense, although video footage of David Shayler trying to present him with the award (a gold-painted trophy featuring a (Jack)Boot crushing a head) proved that he was tricky to pin down.

The Home Office was beaten by the NHS Executive for most heinous government organisation award, thanks mostly to its patient database, compiled without consent and allowing gross invasion of personal, highly confidential details. The RIP Act was surprisingly beaten by the National DNA Database for Most Appalling Project and the TV licensing enforcers Envision Licensing won the hotly contested Most Invasive Company award.

It wasn't all bad news though. A number of people were presented with "Winston" awards for outstanding contribution to privacy protection. They were: Ben Rooney (editor of the Telegraph's Connected section), Jason Ditton (for his criminology research into CCTV cameras), Lord Cope (for his work in getting amendments made to the RIP Bill), Peter Scully (for raising awareness of employee monitoring through his trade union MSF) and our old friend Caspar Bowden (for building an anti-RIP movement).

The awards ran as follows (winners in bold): ®

MOST INVASIVE COMPANY

  • i-CD Publishing (for UK InfoDisc)
  • Envision Licensing Ltd (for TV licensing)
  • Visionics (for Automated Face Recognition)
  • Amazon.co.uk (for breaking Data Protection laws)

MOST APPALLING PROJECT

  • The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
  • The National DNA Database
  • The LandlordsData.com tenants blacklist

MOST HEINOUS GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION

  • The Home Office
  • The Department of Trade and Industry
  • The NHS Executive

WORST PUBLIC SERVANT

  • Lord Bassam
    Ann Widdecombe MP
    Xavier Solana, Sec-Gen of council of European Union

LIFETIME MENANCE

  • GCHQ
  • Jack Straw
  • British Telecom
4th December   Politics

Last week the Government finally overruled the Lords and pushed through their law to equalise the gay age of consent to 16. It also has the additional affect of legalising anal sex for 16 & 17 year old girls. (I had never heard before that it was illegal).


The Sunday Express carried the story that the BBFC was to be brought under Chris Smith's Department of Media, Culture, Sport and Proscription. Apparently JackBoots Straw says he is quite happy about this, but he wasn't particularly happy about another option to transfer the authority to the DTI, because they are known for their tendency to deregulate! (...except of course when it comes to email snooping where they were major players in the RIP bill). I wonder if it requires a change of law as it is still the Home Secretary who can designate the presidents of the BBFC. (Thanks Shaun). It seems a strange decision though, as so much of the BBFC's work is still tied in so closely with law and enforcement. Perhaps they will now have to suffer 2 bosses.

Chris Smith as spouted a fair amount of anti-porn bollox over the years in his job of proscribing satellite sex channels but one hopes that this was forced upon him by his seniors and it is not his natural bent.


Still on the subject of censorship the Liberal Dmocrats have suggested that they would allow broadcaster to show more explicit images of violence and sexual activity after an 11pm watershed.

Norman Baker, the party's broadcasting spokesman said the the current 9pm watershed, designed to stop sex, violence or bad language appearing during the early evening, was too restrictive. This plan, allowing for two watersheds, will enable adults to watch films without fear of undue censorship. It would free up programme makers. It is not a recipe for gratuitous sex and violence on television.

Liberal Democrats have set up a working group of MPs, peers, broadcasters and journalists for the best approach to standards of taste and decency on TV, ahead of the communications White Paper on December 12.


Unfortunately some of these seemingly good news stories mask some obnoxious control freakery from Labour. They are currently putting the spin in place to support the introduction of blanket curfews for youngsters and to enable police fishing expeditions into the internet habits of everyone in the UK. Never have I heard of such a dictatorial invasion into the privacy of a supposed free population. It seems that whilst the ex-communist countries are keenly embracing the free world, Straw and Blair are intent on   the inverse. It is a bit outside of the remit of the Melon Farmers but I hope to be able to support a few energetic defences of our freedom and civilisation.

 

23rd November   Smug Smut

WH Smith, Britain's largest newsagent, is to reintroduce the sale of soft porn magazines in its high street stores in the run-up to Christmas. The decision comes three years after the company chose to remove the magazines because it claimed so few people bought them. However, WH Smith will shortly be stocking copies of Playboy, Forum, New Talent, Forty Plus and Only 18 on the top shelves of its 550 high street stores.

Beverley Hodson, managing director of WH Smith Retail, said last night: We have decided to adapt our policy in order to reflect the changing tastes of our customers. We are trying to get away from the old WH Smug image, trying to be more flexible and modern. We now live in a much more tolerant world and we don't want to be censors. (...But...I bet they won't be selling Rustler)

Magazines will be wrapped in modesty bags, with only the titles showing, in order not to offend customers. WH Smith has always sold soft porn magazines from its 187 stores at railway stations and airports.

22nd November   Restricted Intelligence Police Apologise

Good news today, Worthing police have apologised to the Devlin Media Group for last weeks raid. The police stated that no law has been broken and have apologised. The seized stock was being returned today. One - Nil to the good guys

Devlin deserve a plug for their traumatic experience: Why not see for yourself what the police took objection to and stroll along to stand 53 at this weekend's Erotica Show.

20th November   Lord of Shame

From www.thislancashire.co.uk

A shameful Burnley councillor has called on people to trawl the Internet for their turn-ons so a town can get rid of the sex shops he claims are degrading the community. Granville Lord spoke as hundreds of Burnley residents called for the un-licensed shops at 122 Colne Road and 124c Colne Road to be closed. After receiving a 474-name petition councillors are giving the two shops in Colne Road, Duke Bar, until their next meeting on January 17 to apply for sex establishment licences. Both were trading without a licence, members of the licensing sub-committee were told last night. They set the application fee at £1,500 of which £250 will be refunded if the licence is granted. If the applications are refused or no applications are made the council could then take enforcement action, legal officer David Talbot said.

Lord said he considered it to be totally degrading to the community to have sex shops in the town. It is disgusting to the people of Burnley. I don't feel there is any room for them in this town, there is always mail order e-mail or the Internet for anyone who wants it, he added.

After the meeting Canon Brian Swallow, Area Dean for Burnley, said: "It may be stating the obvious but the church's attitude is that there is no room for sex shops anywhere. Personally I think there shouldn't be a place for such things and that the Church should make a stand. Councillor Lord may be right about being able to get it in other places but that is not right either.

20th November   Barbie Bollox

Spotted by Phil on www.theregister.co.uk

Voice of middle Britain the Daily Mail, is outraged again at the Internet. This time its fury is levelled at "Internet porn fiends" who are "luring the young". How? Well, these fiends are putting well-known kids toy brands in as meta tags to generate extra traffic and are subsequently destroying the sacred innocence of our children.

A study by software firm Envisional - whose business, utterly coincidentally, is protecting brand names online - has shown that thousands of porn sites feature toy brands in their meta tags. In the extremely wide-ranging survey, it tapped in 26 brand names including Barbie, Pokemon etc and found that of the unsuitable links, 30% featured 'hardcore' filth.

I'm horrified that youngsters... [blah blah blah etc etc], said the Envisional chief exec.

We decided to run our own study. And so, entering the word "barbie" into Google, we were disgusted to find that the 42nd link was to www.barbie.nu - is this a French porn site? Frothing at the mouth and writing a letter to our MP while clicking on the site, we were disappointed when it was nothing but a barbie site "based" in the Pacific island nation of Niue.

We gave up when link number 80 still didn't herald any porn. Perhaps Excite would be filthier. Nope. Fifty links in and still nothing. Hacker Barbie wasn't bad but no flesh on show. Sod it, we thought, and typed in "barbie and porn". Aha! That'll get em. Numero uno - Latin Barbie. Right! Nope. Nothing. Just pictures of a group of (dressed) latin american women. But hang on, link six is a link to a news story "Mattel sues Barbie porn site". Eureka.

We read the story - the offending site is www.barbiesplaypen.com. We go there. All the pictures have been pulled off! Bloody hell. Last go. We go to pornsearch.com and type in Barbie. Yes! Porn sites featuring the word Barbie. But they're all pay-per-view.

Which leads us to believe that our kids are safe from utter corruption and deprivation for another day.

15th November   Restricted Intelligence Policing

The Devlin Media Group were today raided by Worthing police. It needed 16-20 officers to carry away 4000 items which have been passed R18 by the BBFC. This was a batch of VideoCD's were waiting to be sent to the distributors and to London's Erotica show. The police were shown the BBFC certificates and also the current BBFC R18 guidelines along with an explanation of recent High Court judgements.... but when a plods got to do what a plods got to do... all the disks were taken away.

They will now have to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for further consideration. Hopefully these numbskull police will get the ticking off that they deserve. Perhaps in cases where the Police so blatantly make up their own laws then they should be ordered to pay compensation.

But in the meantime, law abiding film distibutors have paid the £11.68+VAT fee for official sanction of their videos only to be raided by police who's only interest seems to be to cause unnecessary trouble.

6th November   Internet Vigilante Nutter

A reader has sent me this threat from some self styled internet vigilante nutter. It is interesting to note that this action is based upon the ludicrous distinction that legal produce cannot be sent by post. The whole bad situation can so easily be rectified by allowing mail order  under the condition that ID must be shown on delivery.

To whom it may concern,

This is the first and only e-mail you will receive from us.

Please as a matter of urgency, remove below mentioned website and all pages originating from this domain:

http://www.x-sensual.co.uk/

We have received a number of reports regarding your website and would in  the first instance, like to bring below UK law to your attention:-

Current Controls on Sales of R18 videos & DVD

Source
HOME OFFICE WEBSITE
www.homeoffice.gov.uk/consult/r18video.pdf

2.2 There are strict controls on the sale of videoworks which are given an R18 classification. Under Section 12 of the Video Recordings Act 1984, such videos can only be sold in a licensed sex shop - of which there are approximately 90 in England and Wales plus two in Scotland - to adults aged 18 and over. They cannot be LEGALLY SOLD BY MAIL ORDER, supplied through ordinary video outlets or shown on television. THEIR SUPPLY OTHER THAN IN a licensed sex shop would be a criminal offence subject to a fine of up to 5,000 (proposed for increase to 20,00), six months' imprisonment,or both.

In addition, we are also concerned that a numer of titles you advertise are not registered with the BBFC, again illegal under current legislation.

If you do not wish to join the growing band of websites we have had legally removed, then please comply to our instructions.

This message is not open to discussion, as we simply do not have time to argue individual points of view. Failure to comply will simply mean our report forwarded to your local trading standards office, in this case Nottingham and the mecessary legal procedures being put into operation.

Regard

IV
internetvigilante@hotmail.com

 

1st November

  Making Sense of Censorship

FilmFour bannerFilmFour and the ICA organised an industry wide discussion day on the subject of censorship.

The day was to start with a speech from Robin Duval from the BBFC but he was too ill, following a car accident, so we saw a film instead, featuring him and other people talking about censorship (Mat Fraser being well anti, and Ken Russell arguing for TV censorship!). Then we were given the outcome of some recent research by Terry Watkins Research which used a sample of British households with multi-channel TVs. The participants generally wanted less censorship and said, when a film has been censored, they want to know how and why.

FilmFour submitted a discussion proposal based upon surveys showing that the public now believe that censorship for adults is largely unnecessary. The only thing we need of the regulators is for them to confirm legality and to provide age classification information that may be used by parents.

The conference was the split into groups who all discussed this 10 point plan each with a different emphasis. Most groups talked under 'Chatham House Rules' which ensure no attributable comments to participants. This enables representatives of some of the more formal organisations to speak openly without fear of come back. I was assigned to a group debating in public via a webcast.

The groups discussed the following:-

  • Protection of the Innocent
  • The Right to Taste and Decency
  • Censorship in a Multicultural Society
  • The Social Responsibility of the Broadcaster
  • Technology and the Future: Consumer Choice and Viewing Mechanisms

We all agreed that children are being used as a scapegoat, similar to when they used to censor "to protect women". One parent said he was there representing children's rights. We generally agreed that the age to see and participate in porn should be 16 not 18. If you can marry at 16, you should be able to see films about sex! We wanted to include outlawing films which invade people's privacy.

In fact the conference proved to be pretty liberal on several issues. For example a sensible debate occurred about 16 being a better age than 18 for the viewing of porn. It was also widely accepted that S&M material is inherently consensual and should be removed from the current list of prohibitions.

The conference wrapped up with a panel discussion. The thoughtful BBFC examiner, Rana Johal gave the impression that the censors are well at ease with their recent decision to allow hardcore porn. This seemed to be appreciated by a large proportion of the audience. The focus of public concern seems to be shifting more towards the perceived demonic powers of the Internet, An AOL representative was certainly picking up more than a fair share of censorial questions.

The only negatives of the day were provided by Sheena McDonald chairing with a very flippant and negative approach to the subject matter and Guy Phelps from the ITC who got agitated by an extended discussion on porn and tried to dismiss the subject with a sweeping call to stop talking about porn and to talk about 'real' censorship. This transpired to be the commercial censorship that keeps world cinema off British TV.

FilmFour Press Release

A survey called Making Sense of Censorship commissioned by the FilmFour channel into attitudes towards censorship of films screened on television, reveals a highly media literate society who want less intervention and more information. The survey complements the Making Sense of Censorship event at the ICA on Friday 10th November.  This is the first large-scale meeting of both pro and anti censorship groups and was convened by FilmFour to discuss current legislation in relation to a fast changing society.

The survey shows that while viewers have concerns over extremes of violence within feature films they are able to make a clear distinction between “real” and “cartoon” or “escapist” violence.

Making Sense of Censorship also reveals that the public does not share the commonly held belief that they need to be “protected” from the content of what is screened on television. Middle England expects less intervention from legislators but does want more facts and information so they, as viewers, can make informed decisions.  Demonstrating a clear understanding of the way society is changing, both socially and culturally, the survey shows that there is a clear understanding and trust of television brands which help them decide their viewing habits as well as provide the context for their expectations.

It also shows that the growth in access to the Internet and the lack of control in video stores are of greater concern than the issue of content of feature films screened on television:

  • 64% of those surveyed believed that the Internet was a more significant issue than television.
  • An overwhelming 77% of those polled stated that the cutting of films on television is the least favoured method of controlling the content.Those polled  preferred warnings and information prior to transmission over cuts to the content. 
  • Only 11% favoured cuts as the preferred method of control
  • 82% believed that it was their responsibility to decide on what is acceptable viewing for their families and households and that their choices on what to watch required clear information on content.  The figures rises to 98% in homes with children, as parents believe it is their responsibility to decide for their families.

    Audiences are taking greater responsibility for what they watch – they are “gatekeepers in their own household”.  64% of those polled believed current censorship legislation was unclear and believes it is as much about self-regulation as legislative regulation but that currently insufficient information is available to allow self-regulation.

    Nick Jones, Head of Film Programming, Channel 4 / FilmFour said: This survey puts the emphasis on facts rather than pre-conceived myths.  It shows that middle-England is more informed and wants to make its own choices about what they watch based on information and not the intervention of a “nanny state It is now time to take a hard look at confused legislation that assumes there is such as thing as the moral 'majority

 

28th October   Explicit Videos Cause Human Rights Abuse

Spotted on Westminster Councils website

PORN IS TORCHED AS WAR AGAINST SOHO SEX BARONS HOTS UP

Over 3,000 hard-core porn videos will go up in smoke tomorrow (Wednesday, 4 October) as Westminster Council's war against Soho's sex barons hots up. So far this year over 12,000 porn movies seized from unlicensed West End sex shops have been destroyed by the Council.This latest hoard will be burned at a North London depot tomorrow.

They were seized following meticulously-timed raids by Council licensing officers on sex shops over the past nine months. A total of 17 unlicensed sex premises have been closed following operations of this kind over the past 18 months alone. The latest stash of videos represents the tip of the iceberg in London's porn black market.

The videos sparked a tough warning from the City Council this week. Chairman of Westminster's Planning and Licensing Committee, the shameful Councillor Angela Hooper, said: These explicit videos are extremely dangerous, with evidence that hard-core material of this kind can lead to sex crimes. We are determined to close down the unlicensed premises and so stem the flow of income to those who sell them. There will be no let-up in our campaign against the West End sex barons. It's a war we will win.

(I agree that hardcore can lead to crimes... Abuse of Human Rights, Corruption and Intolerance. Trouble is, it is the likes of Westminster Council that become the criminals, not the viewers).

22nd October   Dicky Logic

From the Telegraph

Lord Attenborough, a grandee of the British film industry, has provoked fresh controversy about violence in films by accusing Guy Ritchie, the director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, of succumbing to the "pornography of violence".

In an interview with The Telegraph, Lord Attenborough said the young British film-maker was debasing movies by glamorising violence to sell his films. His bitter attack follows warnings by Lord Puttnam and leading police officers that the glorification of violence in movies was influencing the behaviour of young people.

Lord Attenborough said that film-makers such as Ritchie were pandering to the demands of Hollywood, which he claims dictate that only films with "sex and violence" are screened at cinemas. He said: I don't want to make a film like Snatch. I'll accept Two Barrels or whatever it was called, because that was the first - but to do that crap again for purely commercial reasons, to succumb to the pornography of violence because it is a prerequisite for commercial success, that I want no part of.

Lord Attenborough said: Violence on screen is much worse than sex. It makes us lose the capacity to be shocked or moved. I don't want to be guilty of that. And if that means that I make movies that some people find boring, then so be it. Violence begets violence. It creates a casualised attitude to violence. It stirs people up.

Ritchie's film Snatch covered the same ground as his debut, the highly successful Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Both are set in the East End of London and deal with a group of cartoonish villains carrying out acts of great brutality interlaced with scenes of slapstick humour.

Lord Attenborough's outburst follows the news that his latest film Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan, will only be available on video in the United States, although it will be released in British cinemas later this month. Studio executives in Hollywood decided that the story would not be popular with American audiences and would flop if it were given a cinema release. By sending it straight to video they accepted that few people would see it, but saved around £10 million by not attempting to establish it as a mass-market feature film.

Grey Owl is based on the true story of an Englishman who fell for a Mohawk woman in Canada in the Thirties and became an Indian environmentalist. It cost £20 million to make. Lord Attenborough believes that if he had been happy to include gratuitous scenes of sex or violence then the movie would have gained a general release in the United States.

22nd October   Hardly an Uplifting Example of Censorship
Lingerie manufacturer Gossard was yesterday ordered to cease its current sexually-charged advertising campaign. The Advertising Standards Authority made its ruling after receiving more than three dozen complaints that the ads contained thinly-veiled references to oral sex and masturbation.

Three posters carry the strapline: Gossard. Find your G spot. were rejected

  • One poster features the blurred image of a naked woman on a bed surrounded by discarded clothing, including a bright red bra and knickers and the caption: If he's late, you can always start without him.
  • A second shows an unclear picture of a woman reaching out for something. Its caption reads: Bring him to his knees.
  • A  third ad, showing a man and woman in bed and bearing the words Moan, moan, moan

ASA spokesman Gary Ward said: These posters contained clear references to sexual activity. We did not feel this was an acceptable. Gossard said: We avoided placing the posters next to schools or religious establishments where they might cause offence.

22nd October   Higher Standards than Thou
Lord Holme of Cheltenham has resigned from the post of chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Commission after it was revealed that he had two mistresses and a wild extramarital love life. The Liberal Democrat peer, who has been married for 42 years, is alleged to have a taste for sadomasochistic practices, and to have called telephone sex lines catering for such tastes, according to today's News of the World.

He appeared to concede that his future at the commission might be in doubt, when he last night admitted there would be "serious consequences" to his conduct in his private life. He said he would make no official statement until today. Over the next 24 hours I will be taking the appropriate action after discussions with my family. However, it is fair to say I do appreciate the serious consequences of my behaviour.

7th October   Cardiff Nutters

Religious nutters in Wales are celebrating after councillors refused a licence for a planned three-day exhibition of erotica at Cardiff's International Arena. The Xsensual company had applied to the council for a sex shop licence which is required for sale of hardcore videos etc.

The Evangelical Alliance Wales,  CARE and the Christian Institute had all joined forces to oppose the event. The nutters said they were "delighted" over the decision to refuse the licence. More than 450 people had objected, they said. Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, said: We are pleased that the council listened to the submissions to them not to turn a cherished symbol of national identity in Wales into a massive sex shop. It may still go ahead but most of the stalls at this show will now be severely restricted.

Cardiff council's shameful licensing and public protection committee rejected Xsensual's application.  One of the reasons councillors gave for turning it down was that the arena is near schools, several churches, hotels and a Toys R Us store.

2nd October   The Censored Verses

Given that sex shops are finally able to sell what their customers want it is not surprising that more will be opening up. It is also not surprising that there will be local opposition to such moves. It is also not surprising that those of a religious persuasion will be spearheading such campaigns.

Today I heard the brief news item that a muslim councillor has just joined a campaign by some parents to prevent the licensing of a 3rd sex shop in Rotherham.

I guess that the chisel got blunted before the last few commandments were transcribed:

  • 11 - Thou shalt have a miserable life
  • 12 - Thou shalt ensure that your fellow man has a miserable life
  • 13 - Thou shalt preach tolerance whilst practising intolerance
2nd October   Human Rights Day

The European Convention of Human Rights has been around in the UK for a little while now but today sees the intoduction of the ability to fight for these rights in the UK courts. It has been well covered in all media so it hardly needs further explanation here. However in a single sentence, state censorship is only allowed where harm can be proved and any restrictions so imposed must be proportionate to the likely harm.

Thanks to Phil for pointing me at an article highlighting the fears that human rights will somehow undermine the church...God Forbid!

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali fears that the Human Rights Act which comes into force next month will be used as a "Trojan horse" for non-Christian agendas that could push the churches to the margins of society. It will become harder to be a Christian, he says in the Church of England Newspaper. Christians will be excluded from councils of state, voluntary organisations, and sometimes from the business of the Church. The Church is gradually being pushed to the margins in the Western world, and we must prepare for a time of exile.

Last night Bishop Nazir-Ali said: What I am speaking about is a general tendency to exclude Christianity from public discourse. The general appeal these days is to public opinion rather than to Christian values. But of course public opinion is a shifting thing.There is much good in the human rights legislation. Who would challenge the freedom from torture?

"But there are other things which may be used to introduce non-Christian views contrary to traditions on which this country is founded. He cited as an example the Donaldson Report, which this year ruled out any human reproductive cloning. Bishop Nazir-Ali said: I can see the courts challenging that under the new legislation. However, the Bishop had some happier predictions. God does bless persecution, he said, adding that the Church could grow stronger from being ostracised.

2nd October   A Touch of Cheek

Thanks to Paul for spotting this in the Daily telegraph

A table dancing club has applied to Brighton & Hove Council for a variance to its licence to allow blind patrons to touch performers. The Pussycats club in Hove, East Sussex, complained that the strict no touching clause in its current licence discriminates against the blind. Kenneth McGrath, director of the club, took up the issue with the council after two blind men visited Pussycats with a stag party of
sighted friends.

They wanted to touch the girls, explaining that, if they could, it would give them a better idea of what the exotic dancers looked like. The club's licence forbids any physical contact between dancers and guests except when customers feel the need to place banknotes in the dancer's garters.

McGrath said: Both men said they very much enjoyed the dances and sensed highly the proximity of the dancers and, in particular, enjoyed the smell of their perfume. Given their disability, they felt controlled touching ought to be permitted for registered blind persons only and with the dancer's consent.

McGrath said that 11 of the 15 dancers had said they would not object to being touched. They said that touching should be voluntary and
restricted to the breasts and only when the dancer is wearing a bra and not topless. The dancer would retain full control, taking one hand of the blind customer and placing it on her breasts while dancing for an agreed time.

A council spokesman said: We would consider any application for a variance of the lapdancing licence once we receive it.

(Brighton & Hove Council are dreadful examples of New Censorial Labour. They have insisted on a topless-only rule which makes the club a pale shadow of those in other towns. At least the club tries to make up for this in the publicity department).

2nd October   Demonic Censorship

One of the most alarming forms of modern censorship is via unjustified legal thuggery. I do not know what the offending material was about but I thought it appropriate to publish how the ISP, Demon, deal with complaints about website content. By the way Trash City is an excellent site well worth a visit.

Dear sir,

We have received an allegation that you have material on your website http://www.trshcity.demon.co.uk/ARTICLES/NEWSFORU.HTM which our external  solicitors believe to bear defamatory meaning and as such we have had to  suspend access to your webpages.

The part in question is the transcript.

We cannot and do not make any judgement as to whether such material is defensible. However, the state of the law at the moment means that if we are put on notice that defamatory material is being published through our systems, Thus plc may be liable for damages, along with you, if it does not take action to prevent that material being published. Those damages could be substantial and we could both incur heavy legal expenses.

In addition, the current state of the law could leave Thus plc liable if it failed to take action and you disseminated any further material through our systems which was later found to be defamatory.

While we do not necessarily agree with the current legal position we must accept it, and have therefore suspended access to your website.

Please reply to this email acknowledging that you understand the problem, that you have removed the material from your website  and that you will not, in future, publish further material which could be considered defamatory of various (named) celebrities through Demon's systems.

We attach below a suggested form of acknowledgement for your convenience.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT

I acknowledge receipt of your email and confirm that I understand your explanation of the legal situation regarding material which is considered defamatory.

I confirm that I have removed the material from my website. I will not publish such material in future using my Demon service, and will not publish further material which could be considered defamatory of the  celebrities which have been named on the site.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jennifer Roughton
Paralegal
Thus Plc

 

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