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 2003: Jan-March

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30th March   Cat Flap

From The Register

The RSPCA is rallying support for a campaign to have the Bonsai Kitten Web site shut down, even though it knows the site is a hoax. 

Bonsaikitten.com, a site dedicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets, has raised the ire of members of the RSPCA, which campaigns against cruelty to animals.

More than 600 people have contacted the RSPCA about the site complaining that it encourages cruelty to kittens.

The jet-black humour on evidence on bonsaikitten.com may be distasteful to some but is that reason enough to wipe it of the face of the Net?

The RSPCA certainly believes so, even though it knows the site is a hoax, albeit in very bad taste, and believes no kittens have actually been subjected to this procedure.

As the Internet is not controlled or regulated centrally, the RSPCA is unable to complain to any central authority, writes RSPCA Online editor Amanda Bailey. We have written to the Internet Service Providers (ISP) hosting the site to express our concern and asked them to close the account immediately.

 

30th March

  Sensitive Ears

It is a good job that broadcasters are not worried about offending their listeners by airing political lies or by the glorification of illegal war. Otherwise there would be no news bulletins at all.

For an alternative war music selection try www.peacesong.com

From The Guardian (edited)

Radio stations have banned certain records from their playlists in an attempt to protect themeselves form listeners from listeners complaining anout references to war and gore.

Radio 1 confirmed that the playlist had been changed since the war in Iraq began. We are not currently playing records such as Diamonds and Guns and Bandages because we want to avoid offending our listeners a spokesman said. He also confirmed that producers had been asked to play music with a "light, melodic" feel before and after news bulletins, especially if the reports contained distressing news.

Although Bandages makes no explicit references to war, it contains lyrics such as These bandages cover more than scrapes, cuts and bruises from regrets and mistakes.

It is understood that other broadcasters have also adjusted their output. Certain music videos, which depict war, soldiers, bombs, executions and missiles, are reported to have been temporarily shelved by MTV.

War loomed large behind the scenes last night as performers used the Radio 3 World Music Awards as a platform for pro-peace protests.

Samira Said, an Egyptian pop star who took the award in the Middle East category, marked her opposition to Britain's involvement in the war by refusing to perform. She told the audience in Hackney, east London: I am deeply saddened that the sound of guns is louder than my songs.

The BBC must now decide how much of the anti-war comment to retain when the event is broadcast.

 

23rd March

  Tunes of Glory

Personally I find the concept of Americans glorying in an illegal turkey shoot somewhat offensive...perhaps a complaint to the ITC may be somewhat more effective in getting it stopped compared with the debased and defunct democratic process.

From FutureWorldFunk

Mark Sunderland, Broadcasting Standards Manager at MTV Europe, wrote a letter to MTV's staff concerning which songs would not be allowed to be broadcast after the beginning of the war.

Dear all,

In the light of the outbreak of war in Iraq in the last 12 hours, our recommendations for the scheduling and content of videos and programmes are as follows:

1. Video recommendations

Obviously, there will be heightened public sensitivity to representations of war, soldiers, bombing, destruction of buildings and public unrest at home. The ITC Programme Code requires us not to broadcast material which offends against good taste or is offensive to public feeling. We therefore recommend that videos featuring the following are not shown at the moment:

  • war
  • soldiers
  • war planes
  • bombs
  • missiles
  • riots and social unrest
  • executions
  • other obviously sensitive material

Examples include:

  • System of a Down Boom! - anti-war video containing facts and figures about, amongst other things, the projected casualties in the war in Iraq.
  • Aerosmith Don't want to miss a thing - contains footage from the film Armageddon.
  • Manic Street Preachers So Why So Sad - contains footage of soldiers being killed and man throwing a hand grenade.
  • Passengers/U2 Miss Sarajevo - contains missiles, guns and buildings being blown up.
  • Bon Jovi This ain't a love song - contains war scenes and victims in distress.
  • Iggy Pop Corruption - contains wars, riots, guns and captions we love guns and we love rifles.
  • Paul Hardcastle 19 - contains war footage.
  • Radiohead Lucky - contains war footage including injured children.
  • Billy Idol Hot in the City - contains an atomic explosion.
  • Armand van Helden Koochy - contains an atomic explosion and ships being blown up.
  • Trick Daddy Thug Holiday - contains soldiers being killed at war

Furthermore, videos with words such as bomb, missile, war or other sensitive words in the artist or song title should not be shown at the moment. Examples include:

  • Outkast B.O.B (Bombs over Baghdad) - song title may offend.
  • Radiohead Invasion - song title may offend.
  • Megadeth Holy Wars - song title may offend.
  • Gavin Friday You, Me and World War Three - song title may offend.
  • B-52s videos etc.

 

17th March

  Students Hate Mail

From ThisIsBrighton

The Sussex University Students' Union Services board (SUSUS) have put a stop to sales of the Daily Mail from its outlets after a recommendation from a panel of elected student officials.

The union said the paper blamed the paper's tone on war and asylum seekers for its decision.

Other students said the move breached freedom of expression.

Nick Scott, 21, who studies international relations, said: There has been all sorts of infighting over this. I think that every point made by the union is totally relevant and I understand why they have reacted like this. But I do not think everyone who reads the Daily Mail is a bigot. (The contributor in no way represents the editorial opinion of the Melon Farmers!)

 

17th March

  Surveying ITC Hypocrisy

Each year the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and Broadcasting Standards Commission, the TV and satellite regulators, initiate a survey of the public's views on TV regulation. It is a demographically correct work undertaken by a leading market research company featuring nearly 1200 interviews. In the survey they posed the question: If people want to pay extra to watch particularly sexually explicit programmes not available on other TV channels, should they be allowed to do so? 76% agreed, 23% disagreed and the remainder were don't knows.

My thanks to Paul who recently wrote to Patricia Hodgson, Chief Executive of the ITC. Her reply was certainly interesting in light of the above ITC survey:

It is true that research does indicate that the British public is now very much less concerned in general terms about sexual material in the media than was once the case, and this is reflected in the ITC’s general policy. But it is far from certain that this means that the public wish to see the strongest and most explicit images available on television, even on encrypted services.

We believe we are applying the views of Parliament and the majority of the public, in restricting the strongest material

 

16th March

  Staff Benefits

Some fun and games in the locality of a new sex shop in Rotherham

From the Rotherham Advertiser

Pulse & CocktailsThe boss of the new Pulse and Cocktails sex superstore  has revealed that some of their neighbours are ready to get into bed with Europe's biggest sex superstore — they have already applied for jobs.

He insisted that a "we'll buy your house offer" was genuine because local accommodation was needed to house growing staff.
The offer comes after whinging families living across the road from the new Pulse and Cocktails superstore in West Bawtry Road, Canklow, claimed this week that their house prices were set to tumble.

A retired miner is calling for compensation from Rotherham Borough Council after claiming it had ignored the impact on local people. Some protesters are sceptical about the store's offer to buy houses. One said: I don't believe the house buying offer is genuine, but if it is, they can buy me out now if they pay me market value, because I don't want my children being brought up with that store across the road.

A resident living across the road from the store which opened its doors on Monday, added: The council have devalued our homes by doing nothing and I think this shop has opened behind their backs.

Pulse and Cocktails partner Graham Kidd described the residents claims as "ridiculous," adding: If anyone truly hates living opposite our store, we will buy their home at market value to house our growing staff. It's a genuine offer and would mean we would save on costly hotel bills. This is a training centre for our staff from other stores in our chain, and we are on the look out for nearby accommodation to house them. The success of the store since we opened on Monday has meant we have already taken on two extra staff and we have had two applications for jobs from people living across the road.

 

16th March

  Police Waste

Haven't the police got anything better to do? There's the distinct possibility that thousands of innocent people seem likely to be killed by a bunch of British war criminals, surely they can arrest a few likely suspects.

From  The BBC

Investigations were carried out on the Pleasure Zone Sex Shop in North Road, and the owners have been ludicrously charged with living off immoral earnings.

Seven people were interviewed by the police and charges brought against the owner and his wife who live in Cumbria. A woman from Darlington faces the same charge as the couple.

The arrests came at the end of an expensive Durham Police surveillance operation.

 

5th March

  Spanking New Film

This page had an awful lot of dodgy single pixel spyware links

From  The Scotsman
 

SM sex scenes in Ewan McGregor’s new film, Young Adam, are set to test the new liberal approach of Britain’s censors to the limit.

The film, which is based on a book by Scots beatnik Alexander Trocchi, contains an incendiary mix of sex and violence unprecedented in British cinema history. In one scene, McGregor beats co-star Emily Mortimer on the bottom and then has sex.

The BBFC - which draws the line at the erotic combination of sex and violence - said it would be looking "very carefully indeed" at the film, which is being promoted by industry giant Warner Brothers.

Writer-director David Mackenzie, who has described the film as the "Last Tango in Glasgow", admitted: There is sex and violence in there, and the two are kind of linked.

Mackenzie said McGregor did actually spank Mortimer, daughter of writer John Mortimer. They all went into the whole sexual side very much with their eyes open and as fine actors, and we’ve got some good stuff. They weren’t spanking very hard.

The UK traditionally has the tightest film censorship in Western Europe, and while the BBFC has recently taken a more liberal view of adult films, it remains extremely sensitive about any link between sex and violence that could be construed as titillating.

Sue Clark, the BBFC’s head of communications, confirmed that the board had banned similar scenes in the past. Our attitude to sexual violence is that the combination of sex and violence - particularly if there are explicit images - can arouse certain people, and we look at it very carefully indeed.

Peter Woods, an expert on British censorship, said Young Adam would be "pushing the boundaries" of film censorship. If the film follows the book, it will certainly give the BBFC something to think about."

Woods said officials at the BBFC had told him privately that they want to further relax restrictions on adult films. They are waiting for the proper sort of material from the proper sort of distributors.

An unshaven McGregor looks older and sleazier than ever before in the film, and appears in a number of steamy scenes with co-stars Mortimer and Tilda Swinton.

 

4th March

  Sex Superstore

I wonder if this affects the often used bollox council argument that a sex shop harms the character of an area. Perhaps if a licence is for a town then their arguement has no basis in law.

From  The BBC

A site in Rotherham has been earmarked for what is claimed to be the biggest sex shop in Europe. The sex superstore is planned for a former car showroom on Rawmarsh Road. The 7,000 square-foot site has been used for retail purposes in the past, and the owner of the sex shop, Pulse and Cocktails, already has a licence to operate in the town.

It means it does not need further planning permission. Residents close to the site have not been consulted over the proposal, because the change of use does not contravene planning regulations.

 

4th March

  The Nutter Clause

I guess the nutters expect the 'community' clause to be something like the nightmare US concept of community standards to govern the judgement of obscenity etc.

From MediaGuardian

The government has slipped in a last minute amendment to the communications bill, to give added protection to the interests of consumers and society.

The amendment gives Ofcom a new power to further the interests of the community as a whole, in relation to communications matters.

This follows intense lobbying from the voluntary sector and bodies like the Voice of the Viewer & Listeners, which welcomed the concession yesterday. We consider it to be a key victory said a spokesman.

The fear was that the bill was being driven by hard-edged economic and competition considerations and in the process overlooking the wider importance and duties of the media.

It also strengthens the need for a range of media outlets, charging Ofcom with the maintenance of a plurality of providers of television and radio services.

Influential MPs, including Lib Dem culture spokesman Nick Harvey, have argued successfully for the need to rebalance the bill, which completed its progress through the House of Commons this week, before moving to the House of Lords.

 

25th February   Royal Society for the Promotion of Censorship of Animals

The festival organisers have had to withdraw The Isle from their bill. The RSPCA sent a letter to the management of the Lumiere Cinema threatening prosecution if the screening went ahead.

To harangue the wannabe censors why not pick up a copy of The Isle.

From The Flesh & Blood Film Festival

Here's the RSPCA letter which was addressed to the management of the Cine Lumiere:

The Isle

The Society has viewed the above film, by the South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk.

In the view of the Society's Veterinary Director there are scenes within the film that have been directed in such a way as to involve the cruel infliction of pain, or terror on animals.

It is our understanding this film is due to be screened, in public, at your cinema on the 22nd March 2003.

The Cinematograph Film (Animals) Act 1937 makes an offence to exhibit to the public, or to supply for public exhibition any cinemagraphic (sic) film in which scenes of this nature appear. Penalties under this Act, upon conviction, can result in fines up to £1,000 and/or up to 3 months imprisonment. If the film were to be shown in public the Society would consider instigating criminal proceedings.

The Society has written to the distributors in October of last year and to a number of other cinemas who were planning to show the film and as a consequence the film was withdrawn by these cinemas. The Society would be grateful if you could give due consideration to our concerns and agree not to exhibit this film.

 

25th February   Sub Standard Raid

From Tony at Taboo

A bit more action from the trading standards, As you know we have a case going on at the moment with the Worcester trading standards, regarding the sale of R18s on the internet, and the fact that they think that the sale takes place on the doorstep, at the point of supply and not in the shop as we have always said. Next court date 03/04/03.

So as we are slowly getting bigger, l take on a warehouse for holding my stock and also doing a bit of wholesale, The unit is closed to the public, myself and staff only. We send out the sex toys from there sold on the web site, the videos and dvds we ring in at the shop and then post them out. Anyway on the 3rd of Feb 2003 at 11am the door opens to the unit for 4 x trading standards, and 4 x police. On giving me a warrant to enter premises note, and notice of powers and rights the then decide to start helping them selves to my stock
items taken are as listed below.
27 x order forms
recorded delivery posting book ( hoping to stop us sending out goods)
1 x sheet of return labels
1 x posting docket book
special delivery book
18 x parcels, ( custormers goods wrapped and ready to send, Paid for in full )
17 x R18 videos
16 x R18 videos
1 x PC Mini Tower, Monitor, Mouse, keyboard
2 x power leads
7 bags of documents, ( Customer order forms)
A number of unclassified dvds in the return boxes ready to go back to Holland for exchange. ( Not for sale on web or in shop.)
The point of this raid l feel was hoping that l would throw the towel in, taking posting docs and customers parcels l feel is wrong, they have took goods that did not belong to me as they had been sold. We have replaced those goods so the customers got what they ordered. Any views on this one?

 

25th February   Licensed to Repress

The licensing laws are massively powerful because the threat of taking away a license and hence income is enough to control many facets of life without requiring the authorities to justify their action or even to fight it in the courts. And it's set to become worse very soon.

From The Brighton Leader

A fetish club has been ousted from the Volks Tavern in Brighton. A WPC asked to use the loos and she reported seeing 'unusual costumes' and 'persons completely naked'. The incident led to a letter to the Volks licensees from the Brighton and Hove police warning that their licence and entertainment license were in jeopardy unless they maintained good order and decent behaviour.

The licensee said he was unhappy he will no longer host the fetish nights but he had to protect his licence. The fetish nights had been running three years without complaint.

The police licensing department perversely maintain that they were not persecuting the club or trying to close fetish nights but it had a legal duty to investigate complaints. (So why did they send threatening letters? I guess they didn't realise that they would have to justify their bollox decision).

Peter Coll, second in command at Brighton and Hove police tried to justify this narrow minded abuse of rights with what seems to be a simple contradiction of the facts: Brighton and Hove is a cosmopolitan city, and clearly we want our policies to reflect an open minded approach.

 

18th February   Unsavoury Councilors Damage Newcastle

From The Newcastle Evening Chronicle

Dodgy councilors rejected plans for a sex shop in the heart of Newcastle, following protests. The applicants said they intend to open the shop in High Bridge anyway.

Nutter Iain Bainbridge, of the Newcastle Christian Institute, said: I'm delighted at the decision but for them to say they intend to open anyway shows contempt for local people and the democratic process.

Newcastle Council got 116 objections, including from councilors Sally Young, Joanne Kingsland, Carole Price and Gina Tiller. Objectors said the shop would harm the character of the historic area, attract unsavoury characters, damage the Newcastle Gateshead bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008 and set a precedent for others.

Barrister Nageena Khalique, representing the applicants, Leeds-based Provincial Enterprises, said they will be studying the council's decision. But they will be opening, selling specialist clothing such as fetish gear and a percentage of other merchandise such as sex aids, allowed without a council licence. It will open very much in the manner of an Ann Summers shop, she said.

Miss Khalique told the city council licensing committee that Kevin John Mitchell, the founder of Provincial Enterprises who runs a chain of nine sex shops with his wife and daughter, has already spent more than £10,000 on rent and building work. Mr. Mitchell said he expects to open within weeks.

The application was for a sex shop selling magazines, videos including R18 videos, DVDs, adult toys and clothing.

Miss Khalique said moral objections were not grounds for refusal but had permeated the case.

 

13th February   Rap takes the Rap

From  The BBC

The link between street crime and violent films, TV shows, video games and song lyrics is to be examined by a government advisor in the wake of supposed fears that violent imagery has contributed to rising gun crime.

Censorship of the UK entertainment industry will be reviewed by the Youth Justice Board, who will make recommendations for changes to rules, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

A spokeswoman for the Youth Justice Board told BBC News Online their research had shown that cultural factors did influence crime, and that they were planning to look more closely at the subject.

The board's chairman, Lord Warner, criticised some computer games, soap operas and rap artists for coming close to inciting violence or dangerous sexual behaviour in an interview with the newspaper. There's a case for reviewing whether we should regulate more rigorously, he said. It's very hard to escape the concern that violent videos, violent films, violent music, violent games do influence some of the more impressionable minds. There's certainly a coarsening of attitudes. We are at risk of a gradual acceptance of a more violent culture in which we take it as given that a proportion of people will behave like that.

The entertainment industry has insisted current rules are adequate, and said Lord Warner or the government are not in a position to change them.

The issue has been hotly-debated by the usual blame seekers since two teenagers were shot dead at a New Year party in Birmingham.

The Youth Justice Board's members are appointed by the home secretary and advise ministers on youth offending. According to the Telegraph, the board plans to set up a working group involving representatives of the film, music and television industries to consider changes.

Entertainment industry groups have said they would take part in the consultation, but that they are opposed to change.

A spokeswoman for the BBFC said: The government does not tell us what our guidelines should be, our guidelines are publicly-researched guidelines. At no time since 1912 [when the BBFC was formed] has any suggestion be made that there should be statutory guidelines for film.

The ITC, the TV watchdog, also said its guidelines were drawn up in line with what the public found acceptable, not dictated by the government. (But they are more than happy to be dictated to by the holier than thou brigade)

Peter Jamieson, the chairman of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents record labels in the UK, has already written to home secretary David Blunkett requesting a meeting to discuss the blaming of all societies ills on artists like So Solid Crew. Jamieson told Blunkett that violent lyrics were a symptom not a cause of a violent atmosphere, pointing out that the BPI's voluntary stickering scheme warns CD purchasers of extreme content.

The Youth Justice Board's recent report on street crime said a "fashion" for carrying knives and other weapons was partly down to figures in youth culture who glamorised violence.

 

9th February   Prudism is the New Liberalism

From the Independent

For decades they have been seen as the last bastion of free-minded liberalism in a conformist society, but now it seems Britain's students are among the nation's most tightly buttoned prudes.

A survey of attitudes on British university campuses found that while few believed it was wrong to show extreme violence or drug-taking on television, most have difficulties with on-screen sex. Despite the acceptance of gay culture into the mainstream, more than two thirds of students thought homosexual sex should never be shown on television, either before or after the 9pm watershed.

The study, by the Index on Censorship, also found that 79 per cent believed there were no circumstances under which a rape scene can be shown, and 30 per cent thought a woman's breasts should always remain covered.

Organisers of the survey of 1,003 students at 10 universities, including Oxford, Durham and Glasgow, said the findings indicated a new conservatism among the nation's youth. The study found that nine out of 10 believed that Britain was a censored nation, with a further 86 per cent thinking that the Government directly controls what appears in newspapers and on television.

But despite the perception of state control, idealistic notions of a permissive self-policing society garnered little support. Some 61 per cent believed that government had a responsibility to define rules of taste and decency, while just 24 per cent thought individuals should be trusted to decide what they want to watch.

Ursula Owen, chief executive of the Index on Censorship, said: The vast majority of students think we live in a censored society and yet more than half believe that the Government should control what they see, hear and read. It could be a general indifference to such issues or indeed it could be a new conservatism. The golden age of social democracy of the Sixties and Seventies seems to be giving way to people putting their heads down. This is a generation living in a scary world with much to get on with, from finding a job to paying for their studies.

 

5th February   Hilary Benn's Bollocks

I wonder if we can prosecute politicians for causing us distress with bollocks views?

From Mary B

The new sexual offences bill will make it an offence to strip off at a festival, protest naked against war, visit a nudist beach or make love in public. 

A new offence of indecent exposure will be committed if a man intentionally exposes his genitals and is reckless as to whether, a person who sees them will be caused alarm or distress and according to the notes this can apply regardless of whether they actually see his genitals or whether they have been alarmed or distressed by seeing them.  Worse still if the person who does not see the genitals and is not offended is under the age of 16 a sexual offence will have been committed.

If you have any comments on the subject please send them to  your MP AND the MP responsible - Hilary Benn.

Thanks to Ian:

I've checked on British Naturism about 'Exposure' and there IS provision for nudist areas but these have to be in a 'regulated environment' whatever that means (nude police maybe??)

 

30th January   Buggery, bestiality, incest...Good job MPs can't read this

It is a pity that the filter didn't eliminate the following spam...the world would be a better place.

Dear Mr Blair,
 My name is George Bush, my father was president of a North American state who amassed a fortune in the forcible acquisition of a substantial middle eastern oil estate.  I am now in a position to capitalise on this acquisition but need your assistance in handling a transfer via your European bank account. I am l offering you 30%...yes THIRTY percent of the total for your assistance in our venture. Please can you meet me in Baghdad on February 28th and we will initiate the transfer of funds. In view of the enormous sums involved I suggest that you bring approximately 26,000 security guards for your protection. As a small token of trust, I suggest that you also bring a small gift of say 1% of your national income. You will of course appreciate the need for the utmost secrecy in our arrangement and I have arranged a cover story for your travels.
George

From The LibDems

OVER 900 OFFENSIVE E-MAILS TO MPs BLOCKED IN ONE WEEK

E-mail messages to MPs are being censored to block ‘the most offensive obscenities’ and 908 ‘inappropriate’ e-mails were blocked in the first week of the new system.

But the Parliamentary Authorities have yet to explain fully how the system works and who is responsible for censoring emails. They claim that the system allows ‘a few mild expletives’ but not ‘a high proportion of the most offensive obscenities."

The information is revealed in a Parliamentary Answer to Paul Tyler MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House.

We really are living in the nanny state, we might feel more relaxed about it if we were told who the nanny is.

If over 900 messages had to be blocked in the first week then the threshold for taking offence must be very low or those communicating with MPs must be especially addicted to offensive language.

The House of Commons Commission is right to consider an e-mail filter, but I am very suspicious that they refuse to tell us what criteria are being used to censor words and who is doing the censorship

This block will not just affect messages from the public to MPs. If I send an e-mail from my home to my Commons Office, or if one of my colleagues is on a Parliamentary delegation abroad and communicates with anyone in Parliament, the censor will operate.

27 January 2003: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): To ask the Honourable Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire representing the House of Commons Commission what the estimated cost is of the system introduced to block the delivery of emails to members containing profanities or other language considered objectionable; what criteria are being used for this editorial system and by whom; how many emails have been blocked; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Archy Kirkwood: PCD is using existing software to block inappropriate emails and therefore the new system has minimal costs. In the first week the system block 908 inappropriate emails sent to parliamentary email addresses. The system filters incoming emails from non-parliamentary addresses and will not effect internal communications, out going emails or those received from remote workers attached to the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN) via Citrix. The sender of any email which is blocked will be notified and invited to contact the intended recipient to arrange for the blocked email to be unblocked. This is to prevent any genuine email from being lost.

PCD recognises that on occasions, constituents might use strong language: for example, if they are writing about a constituency issue on which they have firm views, or of which they have had a bad direct experience. Incoming emails that contain only a few mild expletives will be unaffected. Only those emails that contain a high proportion of the most offensive obscenities are blocked automatically

Update From news.bbc.co.uk

Lib Dem spokesman Paul Tyler says the system is now blocking parts of the Sexual Offences Bill being sent to parliamentary e-mail addresses. It also blocked a Liberal Democrat consultation paper on Censorship. At a time when the government is trying to be transparent and Parliament is insisting on robust Freedom of Information legislation, this level of interference is totally over the top.

This system may be designed to prevent MPs blushing from blue emails, but in practice it is blocking discussion of the new Sexual Offences Bill. Blocking filth is one thing, gagging political debate is another. The system is less than a month old and is already in chaos. It was imposed on MPs with no warning and with no consultation.

It must be suspended until all the wrinkles can be ironed out. Censoring MPs discussions with their staff, colleagues and constituents is totally unacceptable. Many constituents who have had perfectly reasonable emails blocked may not pursue the issue further.

Follow Up from the Lib Dems

The authorities of the House of Commons have made the decision not to allow MPs to opt out of the email censor system, designed to block offensive messages. Paul Tyler MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House, requested to be taken out of the censor system. Paul Tyler said: I should be the one who decides what I find offensive, not some shadowy committee. I want out of this ridiculous system, but it seems I am caught in the censors straightjacket.?

 

30th January   Liberalising Porn

Last year the Lib Dems debated a motion outlining a more mature approach  to the availability of adult material in the UK. This was referred back to the party for further consultation. It is good to hear that this issue will not be quietly forgotten and that the consultation process has started with the setup of a Censorship Policy Working Group.

There will be a debate on  draft proposals  on Friday 14th March. The draft paper will go for comment after that. This should hopefully be informally debated further in the fringe at the September Conference. The final paper will be presented to the Spring Federal Conference in 2004.

 

29th January   Wreckers Wreck Wretched Wrexham

From  The BBC

Plans to open a sex shop in a redeveloped area of Wrexham have been turned down after criticism from local business owners and residents.

Applicant Kevin Mitchell had asked local councillors to allow him to open the adult store on Charles Street. The road is home to a number of specialist boutiques and gift shops.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition lodging their concerns over the proposal and on Monday evening councillors threw out the application.

Wrexham council have decided that they are above the law and have illegally adopted a local policy which stipulates they will only allow one sex shop within the town centre.

 

26th January   OfBoss

Lets hope that he shows a little bit more respect for the law than the ITC

From  The BBC

The first chief executive of new media "super-regulator" Ofcom, is to be Stephen Carter, former managing director of cable company NTL.

Among his first tasks will be to help set up the body, which replaces five media watchdogs including Oftel and the Independent Television Commission. He will then work with the board on formulating the watchdog's strategy and be responsible for its day-to-day operations. Mr Carter, 38, is now set to become one of the most powerful people in UK media, alongside Ofcom's chairman, economist Lord Currie.

As managing director of NTL, he dealt with all the major broadcasters and competed with BT and the satellite company BSkyB.

Ofcom  was set up through the Office of Communications Act 2002, which was given royal assent in March last year. The Communications Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will spell out Ofcom's responsibilities. Ofcom will be involved in issues of taste and decency, competition and takeovers, and public service broadcasting.

There is speculation that Ofcom may aim to get some of the industry to regulate itself.

 

26th January   Council of Intolerance

You would think that councillors would be a little bit more aware of the consequences of being intolerant to the wishes of others in community.

Based on article from  The BBC

Owners of six sex shops in Belfast city centre have been warned they could face heavy fines if they continue trading.

Applications for operating licences by all the shops were rejected by Belfast City Council's Health and Safety Committee on Monday. Ulster Unionist Councillor Chris McGimpsey said the council had followed the wishes of bigots living close to the shops. A number of them have operated illegally for some time with no attempt to get licences or to regularise the situation. Now, when the pressure is on, they have applied for licences. We decided unanimously that neither of the two areas are suitable for sex shops. (Of course the council have showed equal contempt of the law and have not provided the required justification of the harm that would occur if these shops continue to trade.)

The shameful McGimpsey said a proliferation would have led to the setting up of virtually a red light district in the area. The areas of Gresham Street and North Queen Street in the city centre were designated as unsuitable for such shops, as people lived nearby and children could use neighbouring stores. (This is the weakest effort I have ever heard to cover up a gross abuse of power).

The decision could be amended at a full meeting of the council. McGimpsey said he assumed that as the motion received the unanimous support of the major parties, the committee's decision should become full council policy.

He warned that the council could then move for injunctions to close the shops, and owners could face severe fines of up to £30,000. (So what is the fine for councillors abusing their power)

Jane Cuthbertson, who runs two adult stores in the city centre, said the council's decision could drive trade underground. All the sex shops are standing firm on this and we are going to court, she said.

A reader: update

you may wish to know that the shops have been there for 20 years without hinderence....if there wasn't going to be a 25 million pound shopping center being built as it would encompass the surrounding area i.e the land that  the sex shops are on then there would be no problems giving them a licence....but big buisness wins again and its an easy way out for the council.......it seems that they only way round for the council is to go after the shops with front page headlines then ask questions later

 

19th January   Minister of Intolerance

From The Observer

Prostitution tolerance zones will not return to Scotland's city streets in the near future following a recommendation by Justice Minister Jim Wallace that there should be further public consultation on the controversial schemes.

The experimental zones polarised opinion in the areas where they were set up, but a Bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald MSP that sought to give councils the right to establish permanent places where prostitutes could work without fear of arrest.

But the Minister's call for further investigation and the looming election means that the Bill is now expected to run out of time before parliamentarians get a chance to vote on the issue. MacDonald, a Scottish Nationalist member for the Lothians, expressed disappointment at the Executive's decision and claimed that MSPs had already heard evidence relating to many of the concerns highlighted by Wallace.

Local authorities and police in Aberdeen and Edinburgh - the two cities which have experimented with tolerance zones - had lent their support to the MacDonald Bill. Prostitutes' education project, Scotpep, also backed the initiative, claiming that the zones kept street workers safe and helped to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

In a letter to the Parliament's local government committee, Wallace wrote that the zones could be seen as a move towards general support for legalising soliciting, and he said that various groups examining prostitution had failed to reach any firm conclusion on the best way to handle the issue.

Many of the Executive's existing initiatives are driven by a desire to get people out of prostitution,'said Wallace. The Bill's proposals could be seen as accepting soliciting and the effects of this on work to create facilities and opportunities to encourage women out of prostitution must be taken into account.'

But MacDonald claimed that the number of prostitutes in Edinburgh actually fell when the city operated its unofficial tolerance zone in 2001. She added that the experiment had improved safety for women on the streets. Residents in the Leith area now complain that more prostitutes are operating in their neighbourhoods.

Of the Justice Minister's request for more evidence to be heard, MacDonald said: I hope this letter is not a deliberate delaying tactic by the Executive, because it does not want to see controversial legislation going through just before the election.

 

14th January   A Howling Blunder

From The Independent

The producers of "blood-spattered" video games are spreading acceptance of violent crime, the shameful Culture minister, Kim Howells, charges today.

The outspoken Howells was accused of racism last week for denouncing boasting idiot macho rappers after the murder of two Birmingham teenagers in the crossfire of a gang shootout. But in an interview with The Independent today, he is unrepentant and widens his attack to include the makers of computer games.

Violence on video games has shocked many parents. In the best-selling Grand Theft Auto series players can club prostitutes to death, blow up police cars, start prison riots and fire sub-machineguns at drug dealers.

Concern at savage imagery has become so great that a classification system for games, like that for films, is being introduced this year.

Howells, the father of teenage sons, said: I don't think a child is going to be a killer or more violent as a consequence of playing those games, that is not what I'm saying. But it's the acceptance of that heartlessness that is at the centre of all those kind of games, the kind of joy of shooting innocent bystanders or running them over in the car.

He called on the games manufacturers and film directors to face up to their responsibility to society.I look at some of the video games my kids play, I look at some of the movies they and their friends think are wonderful and I see no humanity there at all, nothing that tries to highlight, and underpin, the finer virtues that are in people and in society. It's always playing to the lowest common denominator, which is a kind of vicarious pleasure in spilling blood.

 

12th January   Rapped with Blunket's Stick

From The Times

In another move to deal with the problem the Home Secretary is to hold talks with the music industry to ensure that violent lyrics in rap music does not encourage violence or break race hate laws. The Home Secretary said he was appalled by some lyrics and said that the record industry must ensure that it is not glamorising murder and black-on-black violence.

 

6th January   Nutters Sikh Censorship
The Playstation 2 computer game The Getaway has been cut by the distributor after pressure from BT, the cut version now has no BT (British Telecom) uniforms or vans. Hitman 2, also on the Playstation 2 has been cut of the Sikh Golden Temple level by the distributor after pressure from British Sikhs. The original versions previously released of both games are fully uncut. The PC game Fallout 2 has been cut of all child characters, a patch is available on the Internet to rectify this.

 

5th January   Hackneyed Council

Just a news snippet but I have read that Hackney council is refusing to grant any more sex encounter licenses (not quite as exciting as the name suggests, they are just for pure and innocent striptease).

Surely this an example of a gross abuse of Human Rights governing the freedom of expression. Surely Hackney Council must provide justification for the harm that striptease may otherwise cause if not banned. Otherwise they must be acting in a corrupt manner and may be liable to surcharge and prosecution.

 

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