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 2001: Oct-Dec

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31st December   Labour MPs Brassed Off

From the Times

The BSC have dismissed the complaints of 2 Labour MPs who were duped into appearing on Channel 4's Brass Eye special on paedophilia. The broadcasting watchdog ruled  that have only themselves to blame,

Syd Rapson and Barbara Follett were seen giving warnings against a toxic paedophile gas being emitted from computers, and T-shirts that can disguise paedophiles as children. The MPs said they had suffered 'unfair treatment' and an 'infringement of privacy' by the show's presenter, Chris Morris, and the makers of the satirical programme.

It found that the programme served a public interest purpose and that the MPs could have avoided ridicule if they had made 'basic checks'. It ruled that Brass Eye was justified in exposing figures in authority who were willing to give their opinions on 'matters they do not understand'.

Brass Eye, which was transmitted on Channel 4 in July, sought to lampoon the 'hysteria' surrounding media coverage of paedophilia. Syd Rapson, the MP for Portsmouth North, was invited to be interviewed highlighting the dangers of 'trust-me trousers' - trousers designed to conceal erections.

Barbara Follett, the MP for Stevenage, agreed to an interview in which she was told that 'an area of the Internet equivalent to the size of Ireland' was devoted to 'hidden online entrapment control systems', or HOECS.

Tim Gardam, Channel 4's director of programmes, said: Today's ruling further vindicates Channel 4's decision to make and transmit Brass Eye, one of the most thought- provoking programmes of the year.

16th December   Shelf Life Expired for Phone Censorship

From the Guardian

The rule that restricts telephone sex lines to placing their ads in adult publications may be scrapped under proposals being put forward by the industry watchdog. The so-called "top-shelf rule" was introduced in 1994 after it was revealed children had been running up huge telephone bills on sex lines that advertised in newspapers. According to the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, which regulates the content and promotion of premium-rate services, the media climate has changed so much the rule could now be obsolete.

Paul Whiting, the deputy director of Icstis said: The internet has made pornography much more accessible than it was even five years ago and a lot of lifestyle magazines now have content that would have been considered top-shelf a decade ago,

Icstis has published a consultation paper and is asking interested parties to put forward their views on the rule before it decides whether it should be changed or abandoned.  Icstis suggested premium-line advertising should be permitted in so-called "middle-shelf" titles, such as Loaded, Maxim and Bizarre. The consultation paper pointed out such magazines had eroded the sales of top-shelf publications. Some service providers have put forward the view that, as the magazines are not aimed at children and already contain material of an adult nature, they should be permitted to advertise adult services in them, it said.

A decision on whether to scrap the rule will be taken early next year.

16th December   Kerrupt Kerrier

Thanks to Jon for the excellent suggestion

On the 13th November,  Kerrier District Council Licensing Committee refused a Sex Shop License, for a shop in Camborne Cornwall. Councillor  Chris Lawrence said that although all members of the committee were bombarded with letters from anti activists from far and wide, he had not recieved one letter or e-mail  supporting the application from a member of the general public.

The Barrister for the objectors was funded by some group from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne!  How far from Cornwall can you get? It strikes me that if we truly are against repression, then we the users and supporters of liberalisation should organise to combat the organisation of the Repressive Christian Right. One step would be.  Whenever a sex shop lisence is known about post the details on your site along with the addresses of the relevant Councillors and urge everyone to write, e-mail or phone thos councillors voicing their support.  This will counter the lobbying of the Christian Right.


25th November   Brighton Council and a Corruption of Power

Brighton Council have decided that one sex shop in town is enough and have arbitarily refused a license to The Adult Shop in St Georges Road, Kemptown.

The usual bollox was spouted about being out of keeping with the area but this is hardly believable particularly as Kemptown is a very liberal area much appreciated by Brighton's gay community.

(It is about time that councils were stripped of their power to license when they inevitably use it to support there own moral high ground seeking opinions. Whatever happened to the human right to free speech that may only be overridden when the authorities PROVE the harm that would otherwise be caused. And how is that we have one wing of government that has a monopoly commission to protect the people and another wing able to dictate a monopoly. Its hardly going to lead to a good deal for Brighton customers).

The proprietors have vowed to remain open  for three years albeit with limitations on what they can sell. Furthermore they have criticised the way the licence application was handled and have referred the matter to the local government ombudsmen.

Update: Brighton & Hove Council eventually granted a license to the Clone Zone on St James' Street

23rd November   Campaigner Mary Whitehouse Dies

(Mary Whitehouse made an enormous impact as an individual campaigner as she managed to offer something to both sides of the debate. She rapidly became the figurehead of those nutters that seek to unnecessarily impose their will on others. Yet she also became a very useful focus, icon or target to those of a more liberal bent, in essence she had become the arch-nutter. The Melon Farmers salute this incredible personal achievement) 

Broadcasting standards campaigner Mary Whitehouse has died at the age of 91. For more than 30 years Mrs Whitehouse fought to impose her standards on the broadcasting media, making her a national figure.

A spokesman for the BBC said Mrs Whitehouse had kept broadcasters on their toes" with her feisty and dedicated campaigning style.

The public morals champion began her career with the Clean Up TV Campaign in 1964. It became the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association (NVLA) the following year and she finally stepped down as its president in 1994.

Former controller of BBC1 and Channel 4 ex-chief executive Michael Grade praised her good-humoured determination. But he added: She really wanted television to be propaganda for a very moral view of the world, not the imperfect world we live in. She was really detached from the reality of the creative process.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said her distinctive contribution would be greatly missed. In reminding broadcasters and others of their obligations in respect of taste and decency she greatly enriched the public debate about media freedom and responsibility,

11th November   Hateful Censorship

From the The New York Times

The 43-nation Council of Europe is trying to ban racist and hate speech from the Internet by adding a protocol, or side agreement, to its cybercrime convention, which was stamped for ratification on Thursday. The convention is scheduled to be formally ratified at a meeting in Budapest Nov. 23.

The main text of the convention defines as cybercrimes activities like online child pornography, online fraud and electronic vandalism or hacking, and it sets rules for signatory nations on how the Internet should be policed. The additional protocol would add racist Web page content and hate speech over computer networks to the list of cybercrimes, the Council of Europe, a club of European democracies that aims to protect human rights, said.

The United States, which is a signatory to the convention, resisted European moves to include the issue of racist Web sites in the main agreement, because doing so would conflict with the free-speech protections in the First Amendment.

To keep the disagreement from holding up ratification of the cybercrime convention, the council decided to cover the issue in a side agreement, which the United States and others could choose not to sign, said Angus Macdonald, a spokesman for the council.

While the side agreement obliges only the nations that sign it to ban racist Web content and online hate speech, Mr. Macdonald said, the council hopes that all signatories of the main convention, including the United States, will respect the protocol, and will agree to remove such material if it originates within their borders and is aimed at an audience in another country.

France is thought to be one of the countries that pressed hardest for action by the council on racist content and hate speech. But one executive of an Internet company said the protocol would have little effect. It is very unlikely the United States would cooperate in the way the Council of Europe would want it to by removing Web content classified as racist by another country's courts. The Justice Department fought hard to have the racist bits pulled from the cybercrime convention itself. I can't imagine they will let freedom of speech be curtailed via the backdoor in this way.

7th November   Smug Censorship

From the Guardian

WH Smith is considering adopting cinema-style classifications, which would give magazines a 15 or 18 age rating according to their sexual or drug-related content. The newsagent has issued magazine publishers with a consulting document, which proposes introducing the age limits for magazines. The document also asks publishers for their views on the possiblity of sealing magazines.

A spokeswoman for WH Smith said: We are looking at putting together guidelines for all our newspapers and magazines. It's not about censorship.

The proposal raises fears that magazines like Loaded or FHM might be bagged if WH Smith judges their covers to be too raunchy. However, publishers are concerned the classifications could result in men's, clubbing, gay and teen magazines being relegated to unpopular shelves to put them out of the reach of young readers.

One insider, who had seen the document, said "all the sexual content in women's magazines comes under the radar" of the consultation document. The source added that, under the proposals, the 15 "certificate" would apply to all gay magazines and comics like Viz. According to the document, WH Smith deems magazines that encourage drug taking or glorify any illegal activitiy as inappropriate for a family environment. The retailer also takes issue with magazine covers that bear graphic depictions of mutilation, deformities or gore or coverlines that use language of an insensitive nature. In the discussion paper, WH Smith insists it "will by no means operate as the nation's censor".

Magazine publishers acknowledge that WH Smith - once derided as WH Smug for its conservative attitudes - reviews its policy from time to time and does not want to suppress opinion. However, one said: Nonetheless, this sets a worrying precedent of retailers interfering in the content of magazines.

7th November   Private Censorship

From the Guardian

A high court injunction was granted after an unnamed, married, professional footballer went to court to stop a newspaper publishing the accounts of two women with whom he had had affairs.

Newspaper lawyers have expressed concern at the injunction which they say could spell the end of 'kiss and tell' exposÚs. They claim the ruling is a worrying development and could be used as an instrument of censorship. News International's head of legal affairs, Tom Crone, said the high court judgment - which effectively says a person who enters into sexual relations with another is obliged to keep the details of the encounter confidential - is "a dangerous precedent".  Crone said: As I understand it, this footballer - who is married - is a relatively public figure in his area and it's fair to say around 50% of people in the area would know exactly what this was all about. I think it's a very dangerous precedent for something that is clearly not confidential to be covered by a legal injunction."

His views were echoed by the Express's legal chief, Justin Walford, who said there was growing concern the judgment could be used to gag newspapers. I'm not convinced it's the end of the kiss and tell but it certainly raises that possibility.

The exposÚ that prompted the judgment was to have been published in April. A preliminary injunction, which is subject to appeal, ruled the publication of the material amounted to a "breach of a duty of confidence" between the footballer and the two women.

To most people, the details of their sexual lives are high on their list of those matters they regard as confidential, said the judge, the Honorable Mr Justice Jack, in his ruling. When people enter into a personal agreement of this nature, they do not do so for the purpose of it being published subsequently in the Sun or any other newspaper. The information about the relationship is for the relationship and not a wider purpose. The fact is, when people kiss and, later, one of them tells, that second person is almost certainly breaking a confidentiality agreement.

Mr Justice Jack also observed: "Much of [the injuncted material] is concerned with salacious description of the sexual activity between the claimant and C or D [the women]. It is intended for the prurient. In the judgment, it was noted that nobody knew that they [the women] were having an affair in the sense of sexual relations, including sexual intercourse. Mr Justice Jack said there was "no public interest in the publication of the articles. He added: The claimant's conduct is to be condemned by any moral standard; but that does not provide a public interest in the publication of the information about these two extra-marital affairs.

The newspaper is appealing against the decision.


14th October   Reunited with Censorship

From Internet World

Actions by one of the UK's most popular websites has highlighted again the problems inherent in attempting to regulate the internet, exposing once more the thin line between regulation and censorship.

In recent weeks, has imposed and then removed an automated abuse system that removed or blocked entries containing the words 'gay' or 'lesbian'. The system was put in place after a number of visitors to the site, which reunites old school friends, decided to behave as though they were still in the playground and register under old classmates' names, before falsely outing them on the site.

But the automated abuse system itself created problems, proving too wide reaching in its abilities. One woman's genuine entry carried a listing of her academic achievements, which included a PhD in lesbian history -- a qualification she then found filtered out of her profile on the site. The system has now been removed, and FriendsReunited insist they did not intend to give offence.

4th October   Just Say No to Sex Shops

It is on on-going problem that a fair few local councillors   believe that they are somehow morally superior to their electorate. To establish some sort credentials as being 'family friendly' they like to ban and censor local sex related activities. In my moral code, only low life shits would unncessarily choose to deprive their fellow man of harmless sexual pleasures.

This weeks low lifes are to be found on the councils of Nottingham, Brighton and Camborne in Cornwall.

Nottingham council are strenuously opposing a sex shop licence for SuperMags. Plans for a sex shop in Kemp Town, Brighton are said to be likely to be rejected. The prize for arrogance though must surely go the Camborne councillor who said:  We don't have that sort of thing here and people round here would not use the place.


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