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 UK News

 2002: Jan-March

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29th March   Advertising the G-Spot

From the Telegraph

Ali G and female bottom

  Vote Ali G,
da panty tax.

A poster for the new Ali G film was ordered to be withdrawn by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) yesterday after it drew 109 complaints in 5 days.

In one of its speediest and most stringent rulings, the ASA said the poster for the film Ali G Indahouse was widely  regarded as offensive and pornographic.

Criticising the film's producers for using such a "controversial image" where it could be seen by children, it also told United International  Pictures that all its adverts for the next two years must be pre-vetted before publication.

The ruling reflects the scale of public reaction to the poster which showed the spoof rapper with his arm between a woman's legs and his hand on her  naked bottom. It carried the slogan: "Vote Ali G, da panty tax."

 

29th March   Raid First Research Later

Several people who personally know Bill Thompson emailed me about this story in a state of shock. The police obviously had done bugger all investigations. They were clearly not aware of the status of Thompson otherwise they would have pre-prepared a somewhat more acceptable justification for their actions.

From the Telegraph by Alasdair Palmer

Bill Thompson is a lecturer at Reading University. He's a criminologist and has built up an international reputation as an expert on sexual assaults on children. He testifies as an expert witness - analysing the evidence presented by the prosecution and assessing whether it proves what the prosecutors claim it does. His expertise has been accepted by the courts and appears to have convinced juries and appeal court judges: in every one of the 20 cases he has been involved in over the past two years, the side on whose behalf he has given evidence - and it is almost invariably the defence - has won.Two weeks ago, Dr Thompson found that the door to his home had been smashed in, his house searched, and his computer and many of his files seized. The same happened in his office at Reading University. The raids were organised by Thames Valley Police.Officers asserted they had information that Dr Thompson was in possession of child pornography and obtained a search warrant from a local magistrate before entering his premises. Unfortunately, the police did not tell the magistrate that Dr Thompson was an expert witness in a myriad of child sex cases. Detective Sergeant Kate Ford, of the Marlow Child Protection Group, who 'supervised' the raid, explained that omission to Dr Thompson's solicitor by saying that: Dr Thompson claims to be an expert witness, but he is not on any expert witness list we checked.Dr Thompson is baffled by that claim. I am on the Home Office website as an expert who has been consulted on the sentencing of paedophiles. I am a practising associate of the British Academy of Experts, which is recognised by the courts as an authenticating body. (What a surreal sounding orgainsation, I wonder if I can join on the back of censorship expertise?) Experts employed within the criminal justice system and academics conducting research are two of the six categories of people specifically singled out by the Child Protection Act of 1978 (and its amendment of 1988) as having a statutory defence against any criminal charge of possessing child pornography. Dr Thompson and his lawyers will argue in the High Court next week that it is extremely doubtful that the search warrant should not have been authorised because Dr Thompson is an expert. You can't be an expert witness without having to evaluate this sort of material. It is part of my job, Dr Thompson continued. I am frequently asked for an opinion of whether pictures constitute child pornography: often the relevant pictures clearly are obscene, and I will advise them that the pictures cannot be defended. Clients often change their pleas as a consequence." Dr Thompson has given lectures to police officers in which he has explained the anomalous position that he and other experts such as him occupy in relation to the Child Protection Act. We have a statutory defence against any prosecution," Dr Thompson explained. "But it does not stop a prosecution from taking place. Under the law as it stands, people like me can be charged and prosecuted, even though no prosecution should succeed. The police say that, in raiding Dr Thompson, they were simply responding to "several" claims that Dr Thompson was downloading "massive amounts" of child pornography from the internet. That claim is demonstrably false, insists Dr Thompson. And its falsity will be demonstrated the moment they go through my computers.Dr Thompson has no doubt that he can dispose of the allegation that has been made against him. He doubts that he will even be charged. Still, it will not be so easy for him to restore his reputation: mud sticks. He has been suspended form his university post while the allegations are investigated. And merely being the subject of a police raid has meant that Dr Thompson has been dropped as an expert witness by the lawyers for several defendants on whose behalf he was due to appear.

 

28th March   Treason

If the price of maintaining the monarchy is to have to live under such bollox law as treason then it is about time that the monarchy were abolished!

From The Guardian

The Guardian yesterday won a crucial round in its battle to challenge a 154-year-old law which makes it a criminal offence, punishable by life imprisonment, to advocate abolition of the monarchy in print.

The paper is seeking a court declaration that section three of the Treason Felony Act 1848 is incompatible with the guarantee of freedom of expression in the European convention on human rights. Alternatively, it wants the court to reword the 1848 act so the offence is limited to seeking the overthrow of the monarchy by violent means.

Three appeal court judges said yesterday: We consider that it would not be in the interests of justice to prevent the matters raised in this application from being fully argued. They said the paper's submissions raise points of general interest, which we consider ought to be the subject of proper consideration.

Under the Human Rights Act, the courts must notify the secretary of state for the relevant government department if they propose to declare a statute incompatible with the rights conferred by the human rights convention. The act, which came into force in October 2000, makes the convention part of British law and provides a fast-track procedure for parliament to amend a statute which is declared incompatible by the courts.

The Guardian launched its challenge after it began a campaign in December 2000 for the establishment of a republic by peaceful means in the UK. Before publishing a series of articles on the subject, the editor, Alan Rusbridger, asked the then attorney general, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to confirm that the paper and its staff would not face prosecution under the Treason Felony Act. He wrote back: It is not for any attorney general to disapply an act of parliament; that is a matter for parliament itself.

 

28th March   Contempt of Corby

Personally speaking, the school justice system that a the whole class is punished because one unknown kid has stepped out of line has left me with a deep despite and distrust of the so called establishment. No doubt the people of Corby think that the short term measure of removing kids from the street may help them, but in the long term they are just teaching people to justifiably despise the establishment who punish without reason.

From The Guardian

Corby in Northamptonshire is gearing up to become the first in the country to use the bollox law of child curfew orders to tackle juvenile nuisance, banning children under the age of 15 from the streets between 9pm and 6am.

The curfews would give police in Corby the power to take children off the streets and return them to their parents who would have to explain why they were out (What crap, the police should explain why they are denying people freedom). If nobody was at home the child would be taken into police protection and then passed on to social services.

Northamptonshire police yesterday stressed that the curfews were still a proposal and that nothing had been finalised. We need to undertake further, more detailed consultation with the public and other agencies in order to ensure that this scheme is both appropriate and effective in respect of the particular needs of this area of Corby, said Chief Superintendent Ian McNeill.

However, it is understood police last week met Home Office officials, who would need to approve any order, to discuss in detail how they might proceed. Privately, the borough council is strongly in favour of the scheme, which it hopes to have in place within three months.

The government changed legislation in August last year, raising the age up to which police and local authorities have the power to implement curfews on children from 10 to 15. The curfews are initially allowed to run for 90 days but can be extended. Yesterday a Home Office spokeswoman said several police forces and local authorities had expressed an interest in using the orders, but so far there had been no official applications.

The plan is the brainchild of the nutter, Inspector Gary Forsyth, who raised the idea at a meeting of local residents last week, where it received a positive response. Corby is no different from any other town in terms of anti-social behaviour. There are certain times and certain areas where it occurs. I first started thinking about curfews when they became available in August. The more I've looked into it the more I am attracted by the prospect."

 

26th March   Black Humour in the Theatre

Thanks to Shaun

Rotherham Borough Coucil have prevented Wickersley Amateur Operatic society from performing ShowBoat later this year in the "Rotherham Civic Theatre" as they cannot find enough african or asian actors to depict these   characters, and the council simply won't allow white members of the society to "black up" to authentically play the parts.

The theatrical societies plead that the sole reason people need to black up, is simply because they cannot find enough black or Asian actors to play the parts. Any talented black or asian actors, would be welcomed with open arms a spokeperson for the society involved said. Indeed all the local societies would be beating a path to their door. This seems to be mainly due to the policy of Councillor Georgina Boyes,

Shaun had a letter published in the Rotherham "Advertiser" about it.  He suggested that the council are violating Article 10, of the Human Rights act, and are acting as theatre censors. The paper's editorial column agreed with him, and they are concerned that the council are now "improperly acting as theatre censors".

(The Melon Farmers would like to hear whether any of our black readers are offended by Showboat or Ali G)

 

26th March   Black Humour in the Movies

From The Guardian

Ali G's creator Sacha Baron Cohen is "the new Al Jolson", perpetuating racist stereotypes, the editor of a leading black magazine said recently as the feature film Ali G in Da House received its West End premiere.

Peter Akinti, who staged a demonstration last night in Leicester Square, said: He is the new Al Jolson - he's effectively blacked up to take the piss out of a stereotype of young black men that is deeply offensive. He is a white Jewish Cambridge graduate, and he uses the word 'nigger' and asks 'Is it 'cos I is black?' There's no way you would be able to get away with making similar jokes about the Jewish community - you would be called a racist before the words had left your lips. By playing up the stereotype of the young black kid who just wants to rap and wear tracksuits he's giving people another way of laughing at and belittling black people.

 

23rd March   Licensed to Extort

Spotted in the Coventry Evening Telegraph by Bill

Owners  of Bedworth's only sex shop have padlocked its doors after being landed with a 3000 GBP licence fee. Bedworth's "adults only" shop in Mill Street has been closed since the start of the month following a borough council decision to introduce the annual fee for sex establishments. The new licensing system also affects two "adults only" shops in Queens Road, Nuneaton.

 

21st March   Regional Sky

Now that ITV has come to Sky we now notice the usual control freakery associated with trying to force us to watch the ITV according to the post code of the subscriber.

With a little jiggery pokery one can seemingly work round this limitation. Try http://www.btinternet.com/~c.vowles/Sat/SkyITV.htm

 

21st March   Governing His Kids

From the Telegraph Children's television is too dominated by violent cartoons rather than educational programmes, the chairman of the BBC's governors says today. In an interview with The Telegraph, Gavyn Davies, a father of three, says he has introduced a quota on the number of cartoons - such as Pokemon and Digimon - that his children can watch. He has also banned them from playing violent video games. He says: I'm worried about children's programmes on television generally being too dominated by adverts, too dominated by foreign animations, and insufficiently stretching and educative for the kids. I do ban [my children] on occasions from watching programmes. I give them a quota, otherwise they will sit there on a Saturday morning watching nothing but cartoons.

 

21st March   Labour Green with Envy

The Greens have become the first political party in the UK to back the decriminalisation of prostitution.

Brothels should be inspected and licensed to prevent exploitation of women by pimps and other criminals, according to a motion that received the overwhelming support of the party's spring conference. Street prostitution would be decriminalised and there should be new laws to protect women forced into prostitution and to prevent trafficking of sex workers.

Home Affairs spokesman Hugo Charlton told BBC News Online: Only the Greens have been brave enough to raise this issue. Many years ago when we backed the legalisation of cannabis people thought we were mad - but it is now at the top of the political agenda. The party believes prohibition is not working and says all aspects of sex work involving consenting adults should be decriminalised.

Vanessa Hall, the Green's women's issues spokeswoman, told delegates: There are serious wrongs being committed to people in the sex industry. The people who work in the industry want to pay tax and national insurance and have rights like workers in any other industry."

The proposals have been drawn up after consultation with the International Union of Sex Workers. The Greens took up the cause after London MEP Jean Lambert was lobbied by constituents. They are also expected to raise the issue at a European level, through their two MEPs.

 

20th March   ProHypocrisy

Whilst applauding the judgement, it does seem somewhat hypocritical that an organisation that are so intent on taking way other people's freedom get wound up when their own freedom is eroded.

From The Guardian

Broadcasters acted illegally by refusing to show in full a party political broadcast showing images of the abortion of human foetuses, the court of appeal ruled today. The BBC and independent broadcasters were accused of "censorship" by an appeal court judge for refusing to broadcast the PPB during last year's general election.

Three senior judges today overturned an earlier high court ruling in a judgment that the anti-abortion pressure group, the ProLife Alliance, has hailed as a victory for freedom of expression. The broadcasters were deemed to have breached the organisation's right to freedom of expression enshrined in the new European convention on human rights by refusing to show the part of the PPB that showed human foetuses being aborted.

He made a declaration that the decision not to screen the images in the interests of decency and good taste was unlawful.

Anne Sloman, the chief political adviser to the BBC, said after the ruling: We are very concerned about the effects of this decision. The broadcasters have been entrusted by parliament with the obligation not to broadcast material that offends against good taste and decency or is likely to be offensive to public feeling. This obligation has effectively been overridden by the court of appeal for the purposes of party election broadcasts save in the most exceptional of circumstances. She said the BBC would seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

The ruling clears the way for the ProLife Alliance - which seeks to ban all forms of abortion - to screen its party political broadcast unedited.

 

20th March   Sensitive Footballer

Based on an article rom the BBC

A married Premier League footballer who had affairs with two women could be named after a Court of Appeal ruling went in favour of press freedom. The Sunday People was told on Monday it had won its appeal against an order banning publication of "kiss and tell stories" about the footballer.

Last September, High Court judge Mr Justice Jack ruled that the laws of confidentiality could apply to relationships outside marriage. He ordered that the newspaper be barred from printing interviews with the women - one a lap dancer and the other a nursery teacher who claims he used his wealth, fame and position to seduce her.

On Monday, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, backed the newspaper's view that the story was in the public interest. He said the footballer was inevitably a figure in whom a section of the public and the media would be interested. Footballers are role models for young people and undesirable behaviour on their part can set an unfortunate example.

He and the two other top judges who heard the appeal said in a judgement: In our view to grant an injunction would be an unjustified interference with the freedom of the press. Once it is accepted that the freedom of the press should prevail, then the form of reporting in the press is not a matter for the courts but for the Press Council and the customers of the newspaper concerned.

Both sides had used the European Convention of Human Rights to argue their case. The footballer invoked article 8 which guarantees the right to privacy, whereas the newspaper said its rights to freedom of expression were enshrined in article 10.

The footballer was given three weeks to appeal to the House of Lords and convince them that they should hear his case.

An appeal was made but this was lost and the story was published.

 

20th March   Sensitive Body Parts

Based on an article from the BBC

A controversial exhibition of human corpses and body parts is "hugely educational" and "utterly fascinating", according to Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West England

Body Worlds, which features 175 body parts and 25 corpses, has been predictably been described as "shameful" and "ghoulish" by two Conservative dial-a-quote MPs. Teddy Taylor and Anthony Steen have condemned the show as unacceptable in a civilised society.

Chris Davies said the two Conservative MPs haven't seen it so they don't actually know what they're talking about. I've been there with my wife and 10-year-old daughter amongst the hundreds of thousands of people in Brussels who went to see it, he told BBC News Online. Everyone came away feeling that they had learned a lot about the human body. It is basically an anatomical exhibition.

The exhibition is due to open at the Atlantis Gallery in Spitalfields, east London on 23 March. It has already been seen by almost eight million people around the world.

The exhibition has been created by Professor Gunther von Hagens, of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In it, the corpses are shown with their skin stripped off and a variety of body parts, such as arteries and nerves, on view. It includes a pregnant woman with her womb opened to reveal a seven-month old foetus and two people riding a horse, also stripped of its skin.

 

18th March   Sensitive Female Organs

From The Guardian

The ITC have upheld viewers' complaints against an edition of ITV's  This Morning when Caprice Bourret used the word 'cunt'. Only two people complained after the model used the four-letter word during  an interview about her stage play, The Vagina Monologues. The muted response was seen as a signal that the British public has become  inured to swearing on TV and no longer finds it offensive.

The ITC upheld the complaints, saying the word broke programme guidelines and was unacceptable for a daytime TV show. Granada TV apologised for the unintentional offence caused. Ms Bourret had  been briefed beforehand that she was appearing on daytime TV and was not to  use inappropriate terminology, said the ITC. Ms Bourret later apologised in a press statement, saying that she had become  used to the word having used it on stage every night, and that she had no  intention of offending viewers. The ITC also noted that Ms Bourret's accent somewhat masked the use of the  word.

During the interview, on January 16 this year, Caprice said the title of one  of the monologues she performed was Reclaiming Cunts. The two presenters, Fern Britten and John Leslie, carried on as if nothing had happened. A Granada spokesman said at the time that Caprice's accent was so strong the production team had to rewind the tape six times to find out what she  actually said.

 

16th March   Sweet FA

From Sat 2000

The UK Football Association are bullying UK publicans once again . The FA previously took UK satellite dealer Vision On to court in 1997 after being found to have in their possession smartcards and decoders capable of decoding Premier league football broadcast by European satellite channels . The following is a letter received a few days ago from the FA.

For the Attention of: The Licensee

Dear Sirs,
As you are no doubt aware, we organise the "FA Barclaycard Premiership". The majority of Premiership matches take place on a Saturday afternoon ("the Saturday Matches"). We do not show live coverage of the Saturday Matches in the UK as to do so would contravene UEFA regulations which provide that television broadcasting of football in England is prohibited between 14:45 and 17:15 (local time) on Saturdays.

However, we have the right to exploit live television coverage of the Saturday Matches outside the UK. In accordance with our rights, we have Licensed the right to broadcast Saturday Matches outside the UK including but not limited to Scandinavia, for inclusion in broadcasts intended for and licensed only for reception in those particular countries ("the Transmissions"). The Transmissions are by satellite television and are encrypted. They can only be viewed if the viewer has certain satellite equipment. Therefore, apart from via agreed Broadcasters (BSkyB, ntl, On Digital and Telewest), the broadcast of all live Premiership matches on any day in the UK is prohibited. The possession of equipment which enables access in the UK to broadcasts live Premiership matches (for example the Saturday Matches) is prohibited.

Our attention has been drawn to the fact that the match between Fulham and Liverpool was shown at The xxxxxxxxx on Saturday 2nd March 2002 at 15:00 to approximately 200+ patrons. Your conduct infringes our intellectual property rights which are contained in section 298 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended by the Conditional Access (Unauthorised Decoders) Regulations 2000. These provisions give us rights and remedies against persons who, amongst other things, install, possess or use any " apparatus or device designed or adapted to enable or assist persons to receive the programmes" (section 298(2)).

Our rights were upheld in the case of The Football Association Premier League Limited & Others v Vision On (Midlands) Limited , dated 5 July 1999, where it was decided by Mr Justice Jacob, that the "apparatus or device" described above includes the "complete kit for the reception of Premier League football matches" and includes smartcards, decoders, satellite antenna and satellite receivers.

It has come to our attention that you are in possession of some or all of these goods, and you are therefore clearly infringing our rights. We are entitled to all the rights and remedies set out in section 298 and in particular, we are entitled to the delivery up and seizure of the infringing goods against any person in possession of them (section 298(3)).

We therefore require an undertaking in the form attached herewith dealing with the following:-
1 . That you will not now or in the future show live Premiership matches (including the Saturday Matches) whether in part or in whole other than via a UK broadcaster authorised to broadcast live Premiership matches

2. That you will by 12:00 noon on Thursday 21st March 2002 deliver up to us any and all smartcards, decoders, satellite antenna, satellite receivers or any other equipment whatsoever which is or could be used to receive encrypted transmissions of live Premiership Matches (including the Saturday Matches) other than via a UK broadcaster authorised to broadcast live Premiership matches

We require the undertaking by 12:00 noon on Thursday 14th March 2002 failing which our solicitors have been instructed to commence proceedings against you forthwith and without further notice.

Please sign, date and return the undertaking to us within the deadline specified above. A pre paid envelope is enclosed. We also draw to your attention that the possession of the equipment which enables you to view these matches may constitute a criminal offence under section 297A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended by the Conditional Access (Unauthorised Decoders) Regulations 2000. A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on conviction in the Magistrates Court to a fine of up to 5,000 and on conviction in the Crown Court to imprisonment for up to 2 years and/or an unlimited fine.

Should you be in any doubt as to your legal position or if you do not understand the contents of this letter, or the undertaking sought, you should consult with your own legal advisers. We hereby expressly reserve all our rights, including the right to make an application to court for interlocutory relief, and we reserve the right to produce a copy of this letter to the court on the question of costs.

Yours faithfully
For and on behalf of The F.A Premier League Limited

Amy Butler
Legal Services

 

16th March   Nellis Sent to Coventry

Thanks to Martin

A company called "Darker enterprises" has just had a successful application to open a shop on Far Gosford Street, in the Lower Stoke area.

As per usual, there were protests - this time from the shameful Dave Nellis, a local councillor in the "social alliance."

Far Gosford street is an old street, with a number of historic timber framed buildings on it, and some old weavers' top-shops. It's also an absolute dumpe, lined with fast food joints, pubs, restaurants, & 2nd hand shops. There's also a lot of derelict shops and odd little industrial units along it. Nellist complained that a sex shop would bring the street down! [One of his fellow socialist alliance councillors works for the Cyrenians, and their HQ is on this street, complete with boarded up windows -- looks very nice!]. They spent money on this street years ago, but it quickly turned into a ghastly mess again - grease stains all over the place, gangs of kids hanging around all night.

Luckily, the council didn't seem to hesitate in granting the license - the chain used the argument that Far Gosford Street is already full of specialist shops, and a sex shop would add to it. There's already been a sex magazine shop on this street, and a branch of "Lovejoys"...

Apparently, some trading deal means that this shop will cause the closure of the (Unlicensed) Private shop on Ball Hill (Just up the road.)

 

16th March   Fuck My Publicity Agent

From the Times

A French film about serial rape that the official censor said was one of the most shocking he had ever seen was shown in Britain for the first time recently to an all-women audience.

Robin Duval, director of the BBFC, told The Times that the graphic sex and violence in Baise-Moi were hard to stomach. Despite that the board has passed it with an 18 certificate. The screening came a day after the BBFC's president, Andreas Whittam Smith, announced that he was stepping down as its president. He had not seen Baise-Moi as censorship decisions are Mr Duval's responsibility.

The film, released in America as Rape Me, was given an early screening for an audience that included film-maker members of Women In Film and Television. They were sent invitations with the warning: This is a highly controversial film and contains scenes of sex and violence, which may cause offence.

The BBFC has relaxed its guidelines in the past two years, adopting a more liberal approach to scenes of explicit sex. Of about 10,000 films and videos submitted each year, barely a handful are refused a certificate.

Baise-Moi, a female fantasy revenge film which will be released in Britain in May, features two young women who embark on a killing spree after discovering that they are sexually excited by murder. Explicit close-ups of genitalia include full penetration, oral sex and a man being anally raped with a gun. Described as a French Thelma and Louise.

Mr Duval came to its defence yesterday, saying that he had seen it three or four times. It became less shocking with each screening, he said: With most films, watching them more than once is a process of getting more and more bored. In the case of Baise-Moi, it does reveal strengths and an integrity. It's a very difficult movie. Many people, possibly most people, will find it a thoroughly unpleasant experience. He said that cuts were made on only 3 or 4 per cent of the films submitted. The board had requested one cut in Baise-Moi, in the middle of an 'extremely ugly and unpleasant rape'.

 

From The Guardian

A poster for Baise-Moi, meaning Fuck Me has been banned by London Underground amid fears that its title may shock French visitors to the capital.

The poster for the film is artily abstract, but the Advertising Viewing Committee thought the use of the words Baise-Moi could be disrespectful to French-speaking tourists. (tunnel vision?)

 

And a surprising review from the normally narrow minded Evening Standard. By Lesley Garner

I didn't want to see it. But I was asked to see it and, after an hour and a half of watching very graphic sex and so many exploding heads that I lost the body count, I found myself thinking, yes, I can see why they did that. It's horrible and it's shocking but it has a logic. When a director sets up a world and characters that you believe in, however bleak, then, in that context, the unacceptable becomes, not palatable, but understandable. What I was left with, hours later, was not so much the images of sex and violence but a simmering residue of the anger that drove the story.

It's the rage in Baise-Moi that, for me, justifies the raw sex and the violence. It's what gives it its edge of authenticity. It's a rage which grows from the twilight world of the public housing projects where France's immigrants subsist on dole and drugs. The men hang out in pool halls and street corners. The women hang out waiting for the men, who routinely insult and abuse them. The difference in this view of life from the lowest level is that it is seen through the eyes of the women.

Other films have shown violence and rape but they haven't elicited the same empathy, and I wonder if that is because most of them have been made by men. Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, which was withdrawn because of the outcry over its violence, was ritualised and choreographed it. It wasn't dirty, but Baise-Moi is. The Accused, a Hollywood film about a girl with a bad reputation who was, nevertheless, a victim of gang rape, didn't have half the crude power that Baise-Moi gets from showing a rape that looks as though it's caught on security cameras and pulls no punches on pain, abuse, degradation and the bitter fury and humiliation felt by the victims. This is a girl's view of rape, reeking with shame, devoid of pleasure or titillation. And it couldn't have its corrosive effect if the director hadn't been so graphic.

 

16th March   Lap Dancing in Harrogate

From The Guardian by Steven Morris

Spearmint RhinoA former bingo hall in Harrogate has been converted into a lap-dancing club.  Much to the shock of the more genteel residents.

Between now and the early hours, a "bevy of beautiful house dancers" will be tempting customers away from the bar and into dark private booths where, for 20, they will perform an intimate striptease.

By 10.30pm Spearmint Rhino in Harrogate, is starting to fill up. Having paid their 15 admission fee, customers - most in suits, some in groups but several alone - watch as the dancers take turns to wrap themselves around a pole on a stage and strip to the soft rock beat. Their colleagues, dressed in flowing gowns and immaculately groomed, work the leopard skin print floor.

They giggle and flirt as they persuade the customers to buy private dances. They are taught to find out a customer's name and use it a certain number of times. For 10 they will take their tops off. For 20 they will strip completely. The rules are clear. Gentlemen must remain seated during a dance, with their hands at their sides ... There must be no touching of the dancers except when paying a fee into the dancer's hand or garter.

The club's opening appalled many resident nutters and the job centre refused to carry adverts for bar staff and waitresses. A Conservative councillor, Jean Butterfield, said: I think people were saddened. They didn't think Harrogate was that sort of town.

But it has done well. On a busy night curious thirtysomethings from out of town mingle with regulars who use it as a late night drinking den and visiting business men. The average age of the customers - probably because of the prices - is 40 to 45.

When a conference is on in the town the club is almost always packed. A few professional footballers - the club is too discreet to name names - have also suddenly begun to find a night out in Harrogate an attractive proposition. Concessions have been made to local custom. For example, draught beer is sold here (4 a pint) but not at clubs in London. It was thought the locals would not like the idea of bottled beer.

But the basic Spearmint formula is the same. Ellie Donnachie, the licensee, said: It's all about fantasy. Men who'd never normally have a chance with girls like this are made to feel they are the best thing since sliced bread. I can understand why someone would throw 20 at that.

 

11th March   Escorted off the Premises

from The Guardian (with loaded adjectives toned down)

Ford workers have been given two weeks to remove pornographic material from their work computers as part of a stroppy new company policy. Amid mounting panic in industry about employees' misuse of office computers, Ford has emailed staff across the UK announcing a two week amnesty for all employees to destroy pornographic pictures, links to internet porn sites and other material the company regards as offensive.

The company intends to carry out spot checks after the amnesty has passed, and has warned workers that anybody caught accessing, transmitting or storing material deemed inappropriate will face serious disciplinary action. A Ford spokeswoman insisted yesterday that there was no specific evidence to suggest that its staff were misusing their computers. The move, which was made after consultation with the unions, was a routine reminder to employees of the company's zero tolerance attitude to improper use of its systems, she said.

Hundreds of companies are now choosing to restrict employees' computer use after catching staff accessing and distributing supposedly offensive material. Yesterday, the Guardian revealed the results of a survey for internet filtering firm SurfControl which showed that more than a third of white collar workers in Britain's eight biggest cities admitted using office computers to send emails containing pornographic, sexist or racist material. (What a load of bollox to listen to a survey with such a vested interest).

The problem came to public attention last year when the shameful Royal and Sun Alliance insurance sacked 10 of its employees after they were caught distributing an email that showed cartoon character Bart Simpson flashing at his naked sister Lisa. (Wow that really sounds like a serious sackable offence)

But experts warned companies that they risked being sued by their staff if they failed to comply with privacy and data protection laws when monitoring internet and email use. (Presumably because monitoring our email is the Government's job)

Stuart Morrice, of email auditing firm Peapod, said: This is a major problem for business because we are finding a lot of illicit material out there. But monitoring emails is fraught with complex legal and human rights issues so companies could land themselves in deep legal trouble if, for example, they sacked an employee who had not been informed that his email was being checked.

 

8th March   The Royal G Spot

Two promotional clips for Ali G's new movie, in which he insults the Queen, have been banned by the ITC.

Ali G In Da House shows a scene where the comic meets the Queen and accidentally pulls her skirt down. In another clip, he kisses Her Majesty's hand and says You look much fitter than on the coins.

The scenes were to be used on TV to promote the movie.

 

2nd March   Cuts By George

George Michael's video for his latest release Freeek suffered at the hands of Channel 4. Even though it was shown at 11.15pm it was still cut. Promotion material suggests that the video contains swearing, graphic sex, bondage and mutilation but I don't know what offended Channel 4. Bosses at Universal are wondering whether it will ever be screened in full on TV.

 

28th February   BBC Gay Bollox

From www.gay.com

The BBC has confirmed it received complaints over Stephen Fry's gay jokes and innuendoes when he hosted the Baftas.

Viewers complained that Fry pretty much ignored the 9 pm watershed when he hosted the two-hour ceremony broadcast live on the BBC on Sunday.

The BBC said the number of complaints had been "small" considering the show was watched by 6 million viewers.

Fry, 44, set the tone for the evening by welcoming viewers at home an in pubs, clubs and brothels around the world.

He joked he had auditioned for a the part of a female courtesan in Moulin Rouge. I don't think my months of research on the streets of Soho were wasted and nor do my clients, he said.

Wilde star Orlando Bloom was introduced as an actor under my stern tutelage and carefully positioned guiding hand found stardom ... as a rent boy in Wilde".

The Broadcast Standards Commission said it will review the show to see if their were possible breaches of broadcasting guidelines.

 

28th February   BBC Blasphemy Bollox

From The Scotsman

The BBC has been accused of blasphemy following the transmission of a banned poem, it was revealed yesterday. The Metropolitan Police's vice squad has launched an inquiry into the documentary series Taboo, which was broadcast last December. The television programme, presented by Joan Bakewell, explored the history of censorship while itself testing the patience of the censors.

Mediawatch UK, the Christian organisation founded by Mary Whitehouse nearly 40 years ago, felt the programme went too far by broadcasting excerpts from James Kirkup's poem, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name. The poem - in which the main character, a homosexual Roman centurion, fantasies about Christ after the crucifixion - was outlawed by judges in 1977 and Gay News, the magazine which published it, was prosecuted successfully for blasphemous libel.

John Beyer, a director of Mediawatch, believes the BBC has also fallen foul of the little-used blasphemy laws of 1819 for broadcasting excerpts from the poem. Nutter Beyer has accused the programme, in which he took part, of being deliberately provocative and claimed to be protecting the Christian community against offence.

He said: This poem was declared a blasphemous libel contrary to common law. The passage of time does not affect this - it is a criminal offence to publish a blasphemous libel. The judgment of the court still holds true today just as it did 30 years ago. This was the BBC giving Joan Bakewell free rein and trying to push back the boundaries of taste. But I think she was just being very provocative. If we let this kind of thing pass then there is nothing to stop offence to the Christian community. And this poem certainly caused a lot of offence.

A spokeswoman from the BBC defended the television programme, claiming that viewers were given enough warning of the content of the programme. She said: It is ongoing. We received a letter of complaint and we have been looking into it. To be honest, I'm surprised that the police are doing anything about it, but we will help them if we can. But Joan did say very clearly that it was a banned poem. Viewers were given enough warning beforehand and I think the content of the programme was clear enough.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said:
We can confirm that we received a complaint via the CPS regarding a programme broadcast by the BBC. We have watched the video and the matter is now under consideration, but we are not prepared to discuss the outcome. The investigation relates to the blasphemy laws of 1819 and officers from the clubs, vice and obscene publications unit are dealing with it.

The Observer later reported that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens is a leading evangelical Christian and that Stevens's officers disclosed this weekend that they may charge Bakewell with blasphemous libel.

 

28th February   Regulator Watch Foundation

The Melon Farmer's Regulator Watch Foundation have located evidence to suggest that some extremely dodgy goings on have been going down at the IWF. I wonder if they are intending to publish thir list of news groups. It is all starting to sound very alarming

From www.liberty.org.uk

Internet Watch Foundation was shaken today by the resignation of the only civil liberties activist from its Board of Directors. Malcolm Hutty, regarded as a moderate in the civil liberties community not least for his membership of IWF said They are not prepared to listen to criticism. In December Clive Feather, an ISP representative, resigned citing similar complaints.

Hutty criticised IWF Chair Roger Darlington for forcing key decisions through a Board meeting without permitting any debate. Roger was so determined to introduce a major policy shift on Newsgroups that he wouldn't let anyone speak on the motion and pressed it to an immediate vote without discussion. That's a totally unacceptable way to run a public body.

On a point of order Darlington had accepted that the Newsgroup Ban was a 'Major Change of Policy', to which special voting rules apply under the constitution, but stood by his decision to silence criticism. Ironically, censorship is the main argument against the Newsgroup Ban. To date, IWF has only acted against items of child pornography online, a stance Hutty supports. The new policy would censor Newsgroups -- parts of the Internet where discussion takes place -- on the basis of the Newsgroup name alone, regardless of content. This is censorship of legal debate by an un-elected and unaccountable clique acting in secret, said Hutty.

IWF officials claim the Ban extends only to Newsgroups that promote paedophilia. But IWF Board documents show Newsgroups dedicated to pictures of Prince William, the Spice Girls and actress Gillian Anderson are also covered. Any Newsgroup for pictures of children will be banned, however innocent, as will Newsgroups for Penthouse magazine and teenagers over 18.

 

28th February   British Government Broadcasting Corporation

from The Guardian

BBC executives are increasingly concerned at the prospect of government interference in the television schedules, as the battle to gain approval for a youth channel nears an end. Some BBC managers fear that, in order to get the plans past the culture department, the corporation might be forced into a compromise that would allow ministers the right to review BBC3 at regular intervals. It defies belief - as if government ministers have any idea what young people want to watch, a BBC source said.

Last September Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, approved a clutch of BBC services: five digital radio stations, two children's TV channels, and BBC4, an arts and culture network. She knocked back a proposal for BBC3, apparently as a sop to the BBC's commercial rivals who opposed the corporation's digital expansion.

After a rethink the BBC resubmitted a far more detailed plan for BBC3, including specific commitments to news, current affairs and arts programmes aimed at a youth audience. Ms Jowell has asked for further clarification of the plan. It is thought that one condition for approval could be a governmental review after a set period.

The department of culture has now become embroiled in what a BBC source described as an "elaborate dance" over BBC3. If BBC3 is not approved the corporation will be left with an anomalous set of channels: BBC1, BBC2, Choice, and BBC4. One BBC executive said: It will just be one of those quaint British eccentricities.

 

28th February   Brum Bums

from the BBC

An explicit art exhibition showing a video of men performing a sex act has come under fire in Birmingham. A city councillor, Deidre Aldenis is being backed by a children's charity after she called for youngsters to be banned from viewing the display at the Ikon Gallery.

But the gallery's director Jonathan Watkins said the work confronts difficult issues about the sex industry. He has defended the video's inclusion, pointing out that signs have been put up warning parents. Also invigilators have been employed to tell adults with children about the nature of the display. He insisted the work is a comment on the commercial exploitation of people but admitted the video is extremely explicit. This will be nothing new to 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds, the idea that only adults should see this material is ludicrous, This work is not about exciting people, it is not in the least bit titillating, it's making a serious point about the exploitation of people in the sex industry in the Third World.

The video, played on a continuous loop to visitors, shows a group of 10 Cuban men performing a sex act. (which the BBC seems unable/unwilling to describe). The exhibition includes work from Santiago Sierra in which the artist pays a standard wage to groups of workers, including prostitutes, to perform "repetitive and obtrusive" acts.

Birmingham councillor Deidre Alden described the video as more like pornography than art and is consulting the police to find out if the exhibition can be stopped. "It's certainly controversial but I don't think that it makes it good art. To my mind it's the kind of thing you expect to see in a sex cinema not in an art gallery which ordinary people may go to with children and they don't expect to be confronted with full frontal male nudity. I certainly don't think children should be allowed in, they wouldn't be allowed in a cinema.

A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said: This seems totally inappropriate to be on display when children and young people could possibly see it.

The gallery, at Brindleyplace in the centre of the city, is paid for by the Arts Council and West Midlands Arts but this exhibition is largely funded by private money, mainly from a Mexican art foundation.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said they would look into the matter if they receive a complaint. He added the exhibition could be viewed as obscene depending on the circumstances. (it sounds as if the only circumstances would depend upon who is bringing pressure to bear)

 

26th February
  Europeans Hate Free Speech

From Reuters

Authors of e-mails and Internet postings that contain racist or xenophobic material may face criminal charges under a proposed European treaty that is dividing the Internet and law-enforcement communities.

The proposal, drafted by the Council of Europe, would essentially outlaw the publishing of "hate speech" on the Internet. Welcomed by law-enforcement agencies, it has been slammed by Internet companies as impossible to enforce.

The agreement would create a comprehensive legal framework for international crime fighters as they strive to identify and prosecute cross-border hate crimes on the Internet, an area politicians are eager to crack down on after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

We must harmonize the laws first so that countries can cooperate in criminal investigations regarding the Internet, Peter Csonka, principal administrator at the Council of Europe, said Friday. He added that many member states have already criminalized certain activities regarded as racist or xenophobic--such as threatening a group on the grounds of race, color or religion--and that the treaty would seek to extend that onto the Net.

Csonka said telecommunications companies and Internet service providers have contacted the council asking for clarification on whether they would be held liable for hate speech posted or e-mailed by their customers.

ISPs typically operate a policy of "notification and takedown," in which they will remove sites containing objectionable material if it's first brought to their attention. Self-policing in this manner, they say, is the best way to tackle hate speech online. Csonka said the liability concerns raised by ISPs and Web site operators have not yet been addressed.

The proposal has already provoked protest from civil-liberties groups who maintain it could criminalize free speech and from some Internet companies concerned about liability issues. It's almost impossible, and this is the consensus in the ISP community too, to monitor every single piece of Web space in the Internet community, said Paul Barker, director of corporate affairs at Freeserve.

Civil-liberties groups have also objected to the proposal, fearing it could bring the more rigorous anti-hate speech laws that exist in continental Europe to the more liberal United Kingdom and the United States.

For example, it is unlawful to post or sell Nazi regalia or propaganda on the Internet in France and Germany, but there are few legal curbs in the United States and Britain.

This proposal could potentially outlaw free speech, said Malcolm Hutty, general director for Campaign Against Censorship on the Internet in Britain, or CACIB. That would be a great infringement of civil rights."

The Convention on Cybercrime is the fruit of unprecedented international cooperation, receiving input from 43 European countries plus the United States, Japan, Canada and South Africa.

Drafted by the Council of Europe, a Pan-European legal forum that works for the harmonization of laws across the continent, the treaty would need individual ratification by each country before it is adopted into law. It has so far been signed, but not yet ratified, by 32 nations.

The "hate speech" amendment is expected to be brought into the convention this July, officials said, after the current public input period ends.

 

23rd February   New Scamps on the Block

First time I have heard of this bunch but in their own words:

SCAMP the campaign to Stop Crude Advertising Material in Public scored its first major victory when the Advertising Standards Authority banned a "sexist and irrelevant" poster from Deptford Radio Station, Fusion, which depicted a naked female torso with the nipples replaced by radio dials.

Our thanks to those who backed us more than 70 complaints were received by the authority. But this is only the beginning. We want our campaign to grow and have set ourselves targets.

First, we want to keep the heat on. We want to hear from members of the public if they see advertising which offends, so we can show the big agencies they need to consider the feelings of all sections of the community.

Second, we want SCAMP boards in all newsagents selling "adult" or pornographic magazines. We have no objection to this stuff being sold. But it's not fair women and children should have to look at it while they are out shopping.

Third, we don't think it's right overt offers of sexual services should be displayed in shop windows. How can we teach our children to respect one another when they see lurid offers of sex for money on every street corner?

We're not prudes. We don't advocate censorship. We simply believe material displayed in public places should show respect for all people and consideration for the feelings of all.

 

23rd February
  Treason, an Abuse of Rights

If the maintenance of the monarchy entails the maintenance of bollox law like treason, then it is about time we ditched it and became a republic.

From The Guardian

An appeal court judge yesterday urged the attorney general to "come clean" on whether he accepted that a 154-year-old act, making it a crime punishable by life imprisonment to advocate republicanism, violated the right to free speech.

Lord Justice Schiemann made his comment as the Guardian renewed its challenge to the Treason Felony Act 1848, which makes it a serious offence to publish an article calling for abolition of the monarchy by peaceful means.

The paper's attempt to secure a rewording of the act to make it compatible with article 10 of the European convention on human rights was rejected by the high court last June.

The judge, who was hearing the paper's appeal with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Parker, suggested that it would be sensible for the attorney general to reveal his stance now rather than keep his powder dry for the inevitable trip to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg should the Guardian lose in the English courts.

Lord Justice Schiemann said he had "a good deal of personal sympathy" with the views expressed by Geoffrey Robertson, the Guardian's QC, though he could not see that the act had exercised a "chilling effect" on the editor, Alan Rusbridger, nor the columnist Polly Toynbee, in whose names the case was brought.

The Guardian launched the legal challenge after the then attorney general, Lord Williams of Mostyn, refused in November 2000 to give the editor an assurance that he and his staff would not be prosecuted if the paper ran a series of articles advocating the establishment of a republic in Britain by peaceful means.

Mr Robertson asked the judges to make a declaration inserting the phrase "by force, constraint or other unlawful means" into the Treason Felony Act, so that advocating the establishment of a republic by non-violent means would no longer be a crime.

 

23rd February
  The G-Word

From The Guardian

The Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox was forced to apologise yesterday after the comedian Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) used a string of expletives during a live interview.

The station's controller, Andy Parfitt, intervened personally to order the apology, and has told the programme's production team to explain why the interview was not halted earlier. They are likely to face a dressing down.

But in an indication of the gap between broadcasters' responsibilities and audience expectation, the BBC received only a "handful" of complaints about the outbursts, which occurred between 9am and 10am on Cox's youth oriented show.

Baron Cohen, in his guise as the spoof rapper Ali G, swore and made insulting and homophobic comments during the broadcast. While the remarks were in his usual satirical style, it was considered one of the most serious breaches of the BBC's strict producer guidelines in recent years, and will almost certainly provoke strong rebukes from the broadcasting standards commission and the BBC governors' complaints unit.

The BBC said Baron Cohen had apologised to the programme's producers after coming off air. A Radio 1 spokesman admitted his remarks were "totally unacceptable" and said discussions would be held with the production team.

The station defended the decision to allow the performer to be interviewed live, however, because as a "professional comedian" he would have been aware of broadcasting guidelines. He and the rap singer Shaggy, who appeared with Baron Cohen, were warned not to overstep the mark before they went on air to promote their new single.

During the interview Baron Cohen was asked for his thoughts on being in competition for the No 1 chart slot with Will Young, the Pop Idol winner. He said: Is that the spasticated one or the batty boy? referring to the stammer of Gareth Gates, one of the finalists, and to reports about the sexuality of Young.

Baron Cohen also joked that he had smuggled drugs back from Jamaica while shooting a video. Asked whether he had brought back souvenirs, he said: About as much weed as I could squeeze up my bum. Even Shaggy said: I hope to God my mum isn't listening.

Baron Cohen called the station controller "whitey" - a reference to unfounded allegations of drug-taking among staff at Radio 1 - and complained about his record being censored. He said: How comes people on this station is allowed to say the c-word and m-o-t-h-e-r blank, blank, blank fucker but me can't say pooney. How is that not racialist - answer me that.

The Radio 1 spokesman said that despite the small number of complaints, the BBC had a responsibility to avoid on-air swearing. It's unacceptable to have swearing on the breakfast show and Sara apologised immediately... we really do mean it when we apologise, we don't think it's acceptable to offend our listeners.

 

23rd February   HM Pimps & Excise

Pimps, panders and other procurers of prostitutes won a degree of respectability yesterday when a High Court judge ruled that their business was not inherently illegal.

Any pleasure felt in the illicit sex industry over the new status will have been short-lived, however, because Mr Justice Jacob simultaneously ruled that this meant that they were liable for Value Added Tax.

His double-edged ruling raises the spectre of the twilight world of prostitution, from upmarket call girls and escort agencies to street prostitutes's pimps, being embraced by the strong arm of the Customs and Excise.

Mr Justice Jacob told London's High Court that the only two activities exempt from VAT were drug trafficking and counterfeiting. The judge was ruling in the case of escort agency owners Robert and Julie Polok who had won a VAT tribunal ruling exempting them from VAT on the grounds that their business was illegal.

Customs and Excise had challenged the tribunal's decision and the case went to the High Court. Mr Justice Jacob said that the Poloks' business was to "provide the time of their escorts" which is a "lawful and autonomous activity".

He said that the activities of the escorts and their customers were separable from the service provided by the Poloks who were the VAT taxpayers. The Poloks denied their activities were illegal, but claimed their business turnover was below the VAT threshold. The case will now return to the tribunal which will decide if the Poloks are below the threshold.

 

22nd February   Lead me into temptation

Melon Farmers ch7-IV. Forgive me Lord, but I prefer to minglest amongst the good people that throng at Erotica rather than to commune with the narrow minded biggots that speaketh in your name.

From The Guardian

A press and poster campaign for an erotic show featuring a Christ-like image has been criticised by advertising watchdogs after complaints that it was blasphemous.

Adverts showing a naked man lying on a bed with his arms outstretched above the words "Lead me into temptation" appeared on poster sites and in the Guardian and the Metro newspapers to promote the adult exhibition Erotica 2001.

Nearly 50 people wrote to the advertising standards agency to complain that the campaign was offensive to Christians.

The organisers of Erotica 2001 said the advert was designed to appeal to its target audience of open-minded women who had attended the show before and was designed to be "stylish and fun". They believed the adverts were funny and witty and reflected their perception of the show.

But the ASA said the advert was "a parody of the crucifixion of Christ" and that the image was unsuitable for the promotion of an erotic show. The watchdog told the advertiser not to use the image again.

 

22nd February   Fat Cats, Fat Kids & Overblown Regulators

From The Independent

Britain could be forced to ban advertising from children's television under European law. Powerful voices, citing statistical evidence, are building a case asserting that ads between cartoons and other shows for the young are behind increasing levels of child obesity.

Consultation is already in progress over the revision of the EC directive known as Television Without Frontiers. A report will be prepared in time for the next audiovisual council, on 23 May.

Some EU states are likely to press for Europe-wide rules restricting advertising. Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Denmark and Ireland already haverestrictions protecting young viewers.

In the UK, the food policy watchdog Sustain claims that 99 per cent of food advertised on children's TV contains high levels of fat, salt or sugar -- higher levels than contained in products advertised in adult schedules.

The Medical Research Council says the number of obese children has trebled in the past 20 years: Weight Concern puts the figure now at about one million.

The Public Accounts Committee of the Commons stated that the UK's Food Standards Agency "should work with the food industry [on] a code of conduct with regard to ... food advertising aimed at children".

The Labour MP Debra Shipley this month proposed an early day motion in parliament to ban marketing to the under-fives. -- which was backed by 92 MPs.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertising is adamant there is no link between TV advertising and obesity in children.

 

21st February   Nipple Twisting

Thanks to Michael

I came across a worrying article in one of the local tabloids, The Metro, referring to a sketch on an episode of the last series of the BBC Scotland comedy Chewin' The Fat. The programme was being aired at 23:35, well past the watershed, and is clearly aimed at adults.

Doctors have warned youngsters to stop copying the nipple-twisting antics in TV comedy Chewin' The Fat because it can cause serious injury...
... Education officials have condemned the sketch as "irresponsible"...

... Last night, BBC Scotland said Captain Nipple would disappear at the end of the current series.

 

19th February   Sky Plus Minus

From The Register by Andrew Smith

There is confusion today after Sky first confirmed, and then denied that the company's digital recorders have built-in support for recording restrictions. Launched last September, the key features of the Sky+ system are its twin decoders and disk-based digital recorder. Viewers pay 300 for the actual equipment and then 10 per month for access to the recording features. One satellite channel can be recorded while watching another, and it is even possible to pause live television.

There have been rumours that the system includes a hidden feature that, in future, will allow broadcasters to block recording of their programmes. One Sky+ error message, not currently used but included in the system software, simply states: "You cannot record this programme." Last week a Sky spokeswoman seemed to deny that the recording restrictions exist. But when asked specifically if an individual broadcaster can block recording of programmes on the Sky+ system, she said that this is possible.

Sky's Manager of New Products, Sales and Marketing, James Soames, later confirmed that recording controls are included in the system software. But he emphasised Sky's opposition to broadcasters ever making use of the hidden feature. We would fight hard against that. We have no plans to restrict recording and we would not want to employ that particular technology. Soames suggested that recording controls were proposed during the initial stages of Sky+ development, but had not been approved. He declined to discuss why the controls might have been implemented, or why they couldn't simply be removed in a future software update.

But Nick James, head of Sky's research and development department, stated categorically that no recording controls were ever included in the Sky+ system. It's something that may be introduced in future, But it's not something we consider critical. It's not lined up for any of the next few software releases. According to James, one possible use for recording restrictions would be if a broadcaster did not have "archive rights" for a programme. But he reaffirmed Sky's opposition to such restrictions being used: We're certainly not aware of any broadcasters not wanting their programmes to be recorded. We'd support the public view that they should be able to record whatever they want.

It is clear that Sky is not keen for this issue to be brought to the public's attention. Although representatives have been mostly helpful in answering questions on the subject, one spokesman said that Sky would prefer reporters and reviewers to focus on the positive aspects of what Sky Plus can do, not what it can't do. But many subscribers to the Sky+ service will be annoyed to learn that they have paid for equipment that may be of diminishing use to them in future. According to Sky, customers are not warned of the possible restrictions simply because nobody is really focussing on that.

An enquiry to the Sky+ order line, posing as a potential customer, received a non-committal response: As far as we know there are no plans to block recording of any channels on the Sky Plus system, but that may change in future. We have no knowledge of it. A salesman at Dixons, one of the major retailers supplying Sky+ equipment, was more forthcoming: It's certainly possible. All they have to do is send out a control signal and they can stop you from recording anything they want.

Another feature rumoured to be hidden within the Sky+ system would prevent viewers from fast-forwarding through adverts in recorded programmes. But according to Sky, that feature absolutely does not exist.

 

19th February
  Watching the IWF

The IWF have appointed their next chief executive. Peter Robbins will take over leadership of the IWF on 1 April 2002. Aged 51, he has had a career in the senior ranks of the Metropolitan Police and holds the Queen's Police Medal for distinguished police service. His service includes two years as a member of the Central Obscene Publications Branch.

(I wonder how many innocent people are currently serving time or have had their lives ruined by the actions of the Obscene Publications branch all for a supposed crime that has vapourised into nothingness when challenged). Hardly the sort of appointment that the Melon Farmers could feel happy with).

(The IWF have ralso eleased a press release on several other issues including their very dodgy premise that the use of words possibly relating to youngsters is somehow to be censored. I wonder if they will publish their list of banned words).

New Policy On Newsgroups

Since its formation in late 1996, the IWF has run a 'notice and takedown' procedure in relation to individual items judged to be illegal and found to be hosted on a UK server, usually child pornography and usually in a newsgroup. This arrangement has worked very well indeed: over 40,000 items of child pornography have been removed and no UK Internet service provider has been prosecuted. However, the Board has now decided to tighten the net in two important respects.

First, we will now recommend to all UK ISPs that they do not carry newsgroups which IWF identifies as regularly hosting child pornography. We will use statistics from our own monitoring to identify the groups that fall into this category. Essentially we are saying that, if we find a newsgroup contains any illegal images on a series of occasions, then that newsgroup should not be carried. We are taking this stance because we now know that a small proportion of newsgroups - something like 30 out of around 40,000 - account for almost all the images of child abuse. Asking all ISPs to come into line with the good practice of IWF's subscribers is another big step in reducing the availability of such material on the UK Internet to a minimal level.

Second, we will now recommend to all UK ISPs that they do not carry newsgroups which have names that appear to advertise or advocate paedophile content or activity. We will select such groups carefully on the basis of thorough monitoring, reports from the public, and advice from expert groups including law enforcement agencies. Essentially, however, the groups to be effected will be those that have names that suggest they are concerned both with children under 16 and with sexual activity. Many ISPs already refuse to carry such groups, but this IWF operation will enable a more consistent and thorough approach to be adopted by the ISP community as a whole.

IWF Chief Executive David Kerr comments: "We will now have three ways to limit the availability of paedophile material in newsgroups: issuing take-down notices for removal of specific illegal images; identifying and recommending removal of groups which regularly host child pornography and groups whose names appear to condone paedophilia. This triple approach will make a major contribution to driving such material off the UK Internet and provide the best possible protection for children".

Review Of Governance

As an essential part of the repositioning of IWF as a body which protects children as well as ISPs, the organisation is reviewing its governance on the basis of a number of published discussion papers. Issues under consideration are a new definition of the remit of the IWF, a wider funding base for the organisation, and a Code of Practice setting out what is expected of IWF supporters.

 

18th February   Academic Censorship

From The Register

Provisions in the UK's Export Control Bill could land cryptographic researchers in jail.

That's the warning of Ross Anderson, a lecturer of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, who warns that the bill, currently before the House of Lords, attacks innovation and academic freedoms. Penalties for breaching 'transfer controls' on sensitive technologies under the bill would carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, he argues.

Anderson said the bill, which extends export controls on armaments from physical goods to intangibles such as software, is so "widely drawn" that it would give ministers the power to review and suppress any scientific papers prior to publication. In the past, scientific discoveries could be classified if the scientist applied for a patent, but not if the results were simply published; this is seen by Whitehall not as a fundamental freedom, but as a loophole that needs to be quietly closed, he said.

In the late 1990s, Anderson worked with scientists in Norway and Israel to develop a candidate encryption algorithm. In the future such exchanges would involve a licence from the Department of Trade and Industry, which Anderson reckons would impose restrictions that would frustrate collaboration and impose conditions that would prevent him doing consultancy work.

These "startling new powers of censorship" are far more strict than US regulations - certainly they would prevent any future British Phil Zimmermann - and affect more than just cryptography, but development work in high tech companies across the UK. Britons firms will have to labour under an onerous licensing regime, placing them at a commercial disadvantage to US free of such restrictions, he argues.

Anderson, a long-standing and outspoken critic of UK crypto policy, argues that the credibility of the UK exports regime could be threatened by the bill, and has called for a campaign against it.

We put Anderson's criticisms to the Department of Trade and Industry but no one was available for comment by press time.

The bill goes to the House of Lords committee on March 4, prior to its return to the Commons for a third reading. Amendments to the bill have been put forward in the Lords but it's unclear whether these will be accepted by the government or when the bill might become law.

 

17th February   Grossly Indecent Law

From The Scotsman

Homosexual kissing in public is to be legalised south of the border - potentially making Scotland the only place in Britain to uphold the law that imprisoned Oscar Wilde.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is set to repeal the offence of gross indecency as sex offence legislation is overhauled in England and Wales. The Home Office recently confirmed that the law banning men from homosexual acts in private is being "reviewed." It is understood that particular attention is being paid to laws which date back to the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861.

However, no such review is being conducted in Scotland, which now stands to be the only country in the UK to ban men from "soliciting for an immoral purpose". A spokeswoman for the Scottish executive said: We are aware of the review and are monitoring its progress.

The review follows Labour's unsuccessful attempt to abolish Section 28 in England - the law preventing schools from promoting homosexuality. It was scrapped in Scotland 19 months ago.

 

30th January   Five Reasons for Sex

From The Times

Kevin Lygo, the Channel 5's director of programmes, told the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that after criticism from the regulators of programmes such as Bedroom Confidential and Red Shoe Diaries, he was searching for the Frasier of sex programmes. He said: In the early days the channel bought in cheaper programming, but it is the difference between buying a bad sitcom and buying Frasier or Friends. My job will be to limit the output, but when we do show sex programming to make it better.'

Mr Lygo, who joined the station from Channel 4 last year, said that he had been 'under the misapprehension that there was buckets of smut on Channel 5. There are good and bad sex programmes but the key is: are you ashamed of it? Would you happily watch it with your wife or partner?' Dawn Airey, Channel 5's chief executive, said that it had a very modest amount of programmes portraying sex and sexual themes.

The channel, which began broadcasting five years ago, attracts 6.1 per cent of the television audience and its signal reaches 86 per cent of Britain.

From The Guardian

Advertisers are urging the channel's new programming boss, Kevin Lygo, not to drop the late night porn even though he has pledged to take the channel upmarket and transform it into "Channel 4 without the boring bits". The broadcaster's Thursday night soft porn slot brings in healthy audiences and share by Channel 5's standards, according to a report Zenith Media, the UK's largest media buying agency. But, more importantly, programmes such as Outback Stripper and European Blue Review are watched predominantly by men, who traditionally watch less TV than women and are therefore much sought after by advertisers.

The top audience in Channel 5's Thursday soft porn slot over the past year was 1.7m viewers for Outback Stripper last March; while European Blue Review averaged a 21% audience share in October. But the share of men watching this slot is between 14% and 28% above this figure for all adult viewers, with over-55s the most prominent subgroup.

 

30th January   Discrete Discrimination

Another silly one. The police training college in Ryton-On-Dunsmore (near Coventry) won't put Gay Times on display in their magazine shop. They will however deliver it via student mail boxes.

A former policeman tells me that during his time the atmosphere was extremely racist, sexist and homophobic and that magazine would never have made it past the gate let alone anybody being brave enough to buy it. So this actually represents a step forward of a kind.

A little bit of police training background: Trainees were shown all sorts of porn in week 8 of their careers. They were also then taught about sex offences. "Week 8" became a term in itself, the only week that did. Watching porn etc became known as "Getting ready for Week 8" and after week 8 had passed it was then known as "Revising Week 8". Of course the week number may be different now but it's probably still part of the Centre's terminology whatever the new number is.

26th January   My Enemy is My Government

From ZDNetUK

There are three nominations for Internet Villain at this year's ISP Awards, and, surprise, surprise, they are all government bodies

The Home Office, Oftel and the RadioCommunications Agency have all been nominated for the award, which will be presented at the ISP World show at Olympia Exhibition Centre in February.

The Home Office has come under massive criticism over the past years for several laws that have been introduced under Labour, most notably its draconian Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). This Act, introduced under the auspices of Jack Straw when he was Home Secretary, gives law enforcement officers new powers to snoop on electronic communications.

The law has received particular criticism for the vexing issue of lost or missing encryption keys, where it states that firms must take responsibility for storing and giving up an encryption key on demand.

Anyone who loses an encryption key that the police have requested must shoulder the burden of proof to show their innocence -- a reversal of the usual concept in British law that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Failure to prove innocence could result in a prison sentence.

Oftel, meanwhile, is responsible for overseeing telecommunications in the UK, and unbundling of the local loop in particular -- seen by many as a fiasco.

And finally, the hapless RadioCommunications Agency is the body responsible for selling off radio spectrum in the UK; both the 3G spectrum which precipitated the collapse of telecoms shares when the successful bidders found themselves in massive debt, and broadband fixed wireless auctions. Three months after the start of the broadband fixed wireless auctions, the process had still failed to attract any bidders.

The nominations for Internet hero go to Broadband4Britain.com, to the information commissioner Elizabeth France and to Caspar Bowden of the Foundation for Information Policy Research. Broadband4Britain.com is a campaigning site, while both France and Bowden have been vocal critics of government moves that jeopardise the privacy of individuals online.

11th January   Courier Censorship

Thanks to Gary

The UK porn magazine, The Fun Newspaper, is having difficulty being distributed since courier TNT have stopped accepting it. They say that it might be taken to schools by mistake and seen by kids! Fun is securely wrapped and which school lets it's kids open the mail anyway? Maybe TNT are just after more money from Fun.

7th January   Resigned to Crap Law

Adapted from an article from The Sun

John Whiteman, the vice chairman of Northumbria police authority and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council resigned on Wednesday, four days after his arrest on some dodgy trumped up charge concerned with prostitution.

A court heard that cops nicked a punter as he stripped off for sex with a prostitute. He had picked up the girl watched by officers in a  squad car. He drove her to a docklands street in his car. Moments later he was horrified as three cops knocked on the car window.

Persecutor Annelise Haugstad said yesterday: They began speaking to Mr Whiteman who was in state of undress. The female was also in a state of undress. As a result of what she said, he was arrested and cautioned for soliciting. He said okay and he was taken to the police station. He admits he agreed 35 for full sexual intercourse and admitted that he was aware of the nuisance problem caused to residents in the area.

Whiteman had driven to the red light area in Middlesbrough from his home in Blyth, Northumberland. The retired miner admitted soliciting when he appeared before magistrates in Middlesbrough yesterday.

After the case, Pc Graham Bland, of Middlesbrough's vice unit, said: This  man should have known better. Someone in his position should have known he would be caught. He has been and that sends out a clear message to everyone. We have caught police officers, vicars and now a member of a police authority. The message is finally getting through to local people not to go kerb crawling in this town.

Northumberland council leader Michael Davey said: Details of this case are a personal matter for John and his family.

(I disagree, crap law such as this wastes police time, public money, unnecessarily causes embarassment and ends in unjust punishment. All for a victimless crime whose only harm arises purely from the fact that it is held to be illegal. As such,   it is a matter of concern for us all. I do not know if Whiteman aired any public views on the subject of sex regulation but he surely supported a party that maintains our crap law in this area).

7th January   Off Watch

Press release from David Kerr Chief Executive of the IWF

The Internet Watch Foundation is going through a process of replacing me as Chief Executive. After 5 challenging and highly rewarding years in the post, I have concluded that it is a time for a change for me and for the organisation.

If you follow our Board minutes closely, you will know that there was a possibility that the Board would simply appoint my Deputy, Ruth Dixon, who has shared the task of growing and developing the organisation from its earliest days. But Ruth too has now decided that it is time for a change.

This is a unique job for which there is no natural career background. My successor will need to combine the management skills of running a small organisation operating in a fast moving "market"; the diplomatic skills of working to a Board and stakeholders with a diverse range of interests; and the vision to grow new methods of regulation for converging new media, in an international context.

The job is appearing on paper in the Observer on Sunday (6/01/02) and is still featured in the Guardian Online Jobs. The details are also available directly from the News section of the IWF Web site at http://www.iwf.org.uk/news/index.htm

I am keen to hear from the best person to fill my shoes in the most exciting management job around.  If you know who it is, please let them know about the vacancy.

1st January   TV Licentiousness Fines

From the Guardian. Perhaps we also ought to bring in fines for the regulators if they fail in their duties to fine.

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, is to strengthen plans to bring the BBC under independent regulation, in an effort to shore up television standards. Ministers may then enforce fines against the BBC if it fails to meet standards of taste and quality. The moves are likely to be resisted by the corporation, which has opposed any move that would compromise the independence of its board of governors.

Ms Jowell seems keen to placate the independent television sector, which wants the BBC to face the same level of regulation as it does. Ms Jowell is to publish a draft communication bill next year, which is likely to include a tougher measure of regulation on the BBC than was previously expected.

The bill will set up a regulator for the broadcasting and telecommunications industry, to replace the plethora of regulatory bodies. It is thought that Ms Jowell will include back-up powers that will allow the new body, Ofcom, to impose fines and other sanctions on the BBC if the board of governors fails to act. Ms Jowell told the Independent on Sunday that the powers could be used to prevent a "slump in the volume of domestic programmes or a loss of diversity" as well as lapses of taste and decency.

The communications bill is likely to be published in the spring, and will include other contentious measures such as plans to change the cross-media ownership regulations. Department officials have yet to decide the exact nature of the new ownership rules.