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 2003: April-June

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May 22nd   Not Squeaky Clean

A slightly old story but I had been lacking details. However it is one of the most ludicrous prosecutions I have ever heard. Certainly brings British justice into the pits of disrepute.

The two owners of the Metropolitan table dancing establishment in London were each fined 2000 plus costs of 10,380. And the crime...the use of water pistols by the audience at a strip show. It was deemed illegal because it constituted "physical participation by the audience".

Update July 2003:

There is now a pop-up advert on the Metropolis website that indicates  that the ban on this particular form of entertainment has indeed been lifted.


May 17th   Advertising Kombat

From The Register

A poster advertising the Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance computer game "condoned violence", according to the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 15 complaints about the ad, which showed a hooded youth in a train carriage wiping his bloodied hand on the shoulder of a middle-aged businessman.

The accompanying text read: Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. It's in us all.

Those who complained said the poster was "irresponsible", because it confused real-life crime with a game and might incite people - especially children - to violence. They also said it was "offensive, distressing and unsuitable to be seen by children".

The advertisers, Midway Games Ltd, defended the poster arguing that it did not depict a criminal or violent act. The company also insisted that it was a "fantasy product" and was not targeted at children under 18.

But the ASA disagreed ruling that the poster condoned violence and was irresponsible. It also concluded that the poster was distressing and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ASA rejected a third complaint that the ad was racist.


April 30th   Pro Israeli Bias

From The Guardian

The BBC's governors have criticised the corporation for failing to warn viewers that a Correspondent film about the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem showed events almost exclusively through the eyes of the Israeli military.

The governors launched an investigation after a BBC viewer complained that the Siege of Bethlehem, which was made by an Israeli production team and told from the point of view of the army negotiators who dealt with the crisis, offered a "singularly one-sided" account of the tragedy.

Eight people died in a 38-day stand-off last year between the Israeli military and the 200 Palestinian militants who sought refuge at the holy Christian site.

The documentary provoked an angry reaction from BBC viewers, who rushed to post criticism on the corporation's website.

I felt it was unadulterated Israeli propaganda, which gave only one view of the siege. There was no examination of how the siege came to be, nothing about how or why the Israeli military were there. Bethlehem is part of an illegally occupied land; the Israeli army are an occupying force, wrote one

The complainant said the commentary in the documentary, shown on BBC2 last June, was "fervently in support of the Israeli defence force's actions and did little to correct the distinct bias of the programme".

He pointed out that there were no interviews with any of the Palestinian negotiators involved, and expressed particular concern that this was not pointed out before the start of the programme.

The BBC's programme complaints department did not uphold the complaint, which then went to appeal with the governors' programme complaints committee.

The governors ruled that the documentary's one-sided perspective was legitimate because the BBC's guidelines allow documentary makers to "test or report one side of a particular argument", although the corporation, like all broadcasters, is required to provide a balanced view over time.

But it upheld the complaint that the programme had not been advertised as following events from the standpoint of the Israeli negotiators.

The governors, who provide independent reviews of the BBC's own decisions on complaints, said issues raised by the BBC's coverage of events in the Middle East had dominated viewers' grievances in recent months.

The independent television commission recently cleared Palestine is Still the Issue, a controversial Carlton documentary by the journalist John Pilger about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, after hundreds of people complained it was biased.


April 29th   Playing Games with VAT

What a ludicrous suggestion, there has got to be a lower limit otherwise a a 5p photocopy with 1p VAT to pay will suddenly cost 1.50 for the rip-off mail administration charge.

Also it is not often cost effective to keep below the 18 pound limit as there is usually a postal hit on a small order near to the value of the VAT.


Online game retailer has initiated a campaign calling on the government to close a loophole in European tax laws which allows offshore companies to import cheap goods into the UK VAT-free.

Under current legislation, anything worth less than 18 pounds can be imported free of VAT, a price bracket which covers CDs, DVDs and budget videogames - key elements of the catalogue of goods offered by retailers like

This loophole gives an unfair advantage to offshore companies, according to Gameplay managing director Andy Mee - who points out that many British-based Internet companies are now moving their businesses to the Channel Islands in order to remain competitive, with the cost being measured in British jobs.

All the British Government does however is blame Brussels, he told the Yorkshire Post today. When I asked why VAT could not be charged on all imports, or even a small levy, I was told it would take too much administration. The support it claims to have for e-commerce simply isn't there.

One of the main e-tailers to benefit from the tax loophole is, which is able to undercut its rivals in the music, DVD and videogame markets significantly thanks to its VAT-free prices.

Gameplay, along with Yorkshire MEP David Bowe, is calling on the government to follow the example of Belgium and opt out of this element of the tax laws, thus equalising VAT charging across all types of imported products.


1st April    Government Censorship: XXX...

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Stage censorship returns as the the play XXX makes waves

From The Evening Standard

Home Offie logoXXX is a play that created a bit of a stir as its simulated scenes were a little more convincing than most. The Home Office response is interesting and ludicrously menacing.

What is the justification for the law prohibiting sex in a public place when all of those present are adults and have entered with the expectation of viewing sexual entertainment? What harm would befall the audience or society if they were to view real sex?

Scotland Yard is today investigating a controversial new play after it apparently showed live sex acts in a London theatre.

The review XXX, which had its premiere last night at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, featured some of the most realistic sex scenes ever seen in a British theatre.

At one point a man from the audience was dragged on stage where a female member of the cast appeared to perform oral sex on him.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that sex in public is a criminal offence, meaning the theatre and the members of the cast could be prosecuted.

It is up to the police to decide who is ultimately responsible for the play. The spokeswoman added: In terms of law it does not make any difference if it was a member of the cast or a member of the audience who was involved. Sex in public is an offence and they could be prosecuted.

The performance by the fourstrong Spanish troupe La Fura Dels Baus - two women and two men - is based on the Marquis de Sade's 18th-century book Philosophy In The Bedroom.

La Fura's director Alex Olle said today that the audience member involved in the show was a "plant" placed by the company and that his penis was prosthetic.

However, the Home Office said even the use of a prosthesis could lead to a prosecution.

Olle said: This is the only country where people have asked whether it was real. Since La Fura was founded 25 years ago we have wanted to shock people so they can open their minds. For me this reaction is funny - and it is good for our ticket sales. Olle produced the prosthetic penis used last night as evidence, although the man himself, when questioned immediately after the show, had insisted he was not connected with the show and had genuinely been engaged in oral sex on stage.

However, Evening Standard reporter Tim Cooper said: Last night I was convinced that I had seen a real sex act taking place on stage - and everyone else in the audience thought so, too. Today the company produced the prosthesis and said the act had been faked. While I am willing to believe them I have to say that the performance last night was the most convincing I have ever seen.

Olle said La Fura recruits volunteers for the audience participation from theatre schools in Spain and that others would take part in future performances. If a genuine audience member joins us on stage, as has happened in other European cities, the performers will not engage in sexual acts with them, he added.

The show featured scenes of anal, vaginal and oral sex, enacted on stage but apparently simulated with the help of various sex aids - although many of the audience believed they were watching genuine live sex.

The video screen behind the stage depicted genuine hardcore sex scenes throughout the show, from the opening clip of a woman defecating onto the camera lens. Others included explicit scenes involving bestiality, double penetration, ejaculation and graphic footage of genital torture and mutilation.

Outside the theatre a handful of demonstrators handed out leaflets protesting that the show was lowering the barriers of taste and decency, and demanding tougher obscenity laws.

Standard art critic Brian Sewell said the show should be allowed to continue no matter what happened on stage. He said: I don't see why these things should not be done on the stage. If you are offended all you have to do is get up and walk out. That is the only kind of censorship that is honest."


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